In a recent episode of Influencers with Yahoo Finance editor Andy Serwer, legendary record producer Chris Blackwell explained his reluctance to be photographed with Bob Marley and his band, the Wailers.
“I didn’t want to be, you know, some kind of white management guy hanging around claiming what he helped happen or something like that, you know, because they did,” he said. Blackwell told Yahoo Finance. “He didn’t need that. He had it all himself. He knew what he knew what he wanted to do. And he knew how to get there.
Blackwell, who recently published a memoir titled “The Islander: My Life in Music and Beyond,” grew up in Jamaica, where he developed a lifelong affinity for Rastafarian culture. In 1958, he launched Island Records, the multinational record label now owned by Universal Music Group. About a decade later, a mutual friend introduced him to Bob Marley, marking the beginning of a successful partnership. Together, the two have worked on nine studio albums.
“He just had a really good sense of how to compose his songs and how to record them,” Blackwell said.
Marley had a complicated relationship with race. As a young man of mixed race in Jamaica (his father was white and his mother was black), Marley suffered bullying from his neighbors who called him a “white boy”, according to Chris Salewicz’s biography. Marley was also a devout Pan-Africanist and Rastafarian, believing in the global union of African peoples.
“They call me half-breed, or whatever. Well, I don’t dive on nobody’s side,” Marley said in footage featured in the 2021 documentary Marley, “Me, I don’t dive on the black man’s side or the white man’s side. Immerse myself on the side of God, the one who created me and made me come from black and white, who gave me this talent.
Blackwell says Marley stood out not just because of his melodies, but because of his message. Throughout her career, Marley wrote several songs speaking out against racism and other social ills – preaching about love and acceptance. For example, Marley’s single Redemption Song insistently calls for the emancipation of all African people. Another song, titled War denounces colonialism.
“I think his songs are really great songs,” Blackwell remarked. “These aren’t normal dance songs or, you know, dance store songs, you know, there are songs that have a real purpose to them. And he has a good sense. Really, just a naturally gifted, natural leader.