• The Islander

  • My Life in Music and Beyond
  • By: Chris Blackwell
  • Narrated by: Bill Nighy
  • Length: 11 hrs and 32 mins
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (101 ratings)

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The Islander  By  cover art

The Islander

By: Chris Blackwell
Narrated by: Bill Nighy
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Publisher's Summary

In the vein of Sound Man and The Soundtrack of My Life, a lyrical, warmhearted, and inspirational memoir from the founder of Island Records about his astonishing life and career helping to bring reggae music to the world stage and working with Bob Marley, U2, Grace Jones, Cat Stevens, and many other icons.

Chris Blackwell, like the paradigm-shifting artists he came to support over his 60-plus years in the music business, never took the conventional route. He grew up between Jamaica and London, crossing paths with Ian Fleming, Noel Coward, and Errol Flynn. After being expelled from an elite British school for rebellious behavior in 1954 at age 17, he moved back to Jamaica, and within five years, founded Island Records—the company that would make an indelible mark on music, shifting with the times, but always keeping its core identity intact.

The Islander is the story of Blackwell and his cohorts at Island Records, who time and again, identified, nurtured, and broke out musicians who had been overlooked by bigger record labels, including Steve Winwood, Nick Drake, John Martyn, and Cat Stevens. After an impromptu meeting with Bob Marley and his bandmates in 1972, Blackwell decided to fund and produce their groundbreaking album Catch a Fire. He’d go on to work with Marley over the rest of his career, remain his close friend, and continually champion Jamaican culture and reggae music.

In the ensuing years, Blackwell worked with U2, Grace Jones, the B-52s, Tom Waits, Robert Palmer, Tom Tom Club, and many other groundbreaking artists. He also opened the first Jamaican boutique hotel, on the property of Ian Fleming’s former home, Goldeneye, where all the James Bond books were written. 

Blackwell is a legendary as well as deeply humble raconteur, and listening to The Islander is like spending a day with the most interesting man in the world.

©2022 Blue Mountain Music, Ltd. All rights reserved (P)2022 Bonnier Books UK. All rights reserved.

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  • Overall
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Outstanding

Wow!!! This was an amazing story about music & life… what a life!!! Bill Nye’s narrations was icing on the cake !!! Highly recommend this!

1 person found this helpful

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Magnificent memoir from a truly great music producer

Down the post-war decades, Blackwell quietly, silently, almost invisibly discovered, and passionately produced many of the truly great musical artists of modern times. This thrilling, eminently readable book is a thrilling history of this iconoclastic music mogul’s island- and Island Records-bound life and career. To have found only one of the artists Blackwell found would be a legacy. To have found and championed so many feels miraculous, and yet you’ll learn why and how he achieved so much, and left so much of the fanfare to the artists. Magnificent. Bill Nighy’s narration is a huge asset to the Audible
experience.

1 person found this helpful

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Excellent

Great insight and stories. This has all kinds of hidden gems that music fans will appreciate.

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The Islander

This was a great book. It was very interesting and full of stories about one's favorite artists! It is nice to listen to as Bill Niighy has a nice speaking voice.

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Great

this is a great book you will highly enjoy it if you enjoy music fabulous

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Interesting but…

Interesting but told in the most boring way possible. He should have had someone else do the audio.

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Great memoir, flawed reading

Great story of a life well lived. I wish Mr. Blackwell had voiced the audiobook, it would have been a far better experience hearing his intonations of the Jamaican songs and artists. At the very least, someone from the publisher should have checked the pronunciations - “Soodge” Knight?

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Great book with many names dropped

But mostly tells about Jamaica & the record business. If you intend to visit some day you should read this book to gain an understanding of the people of Jamaica. And listen to some real reggae, made by the people mentioned in this book.

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Interesting and Unique Life in Music

First off, Bill Nighy does a fantastic job with the narration, no surprise. I had to remind myself at times that I wasn’t actually listening to Chris Blackwell.

The strength of the book is that apart from the first chapter where we learn about Blackwell’s early years in Jamaica, he keeps the focus on the varied musical acts he signed and cultivated. He talks about what he saw in talents like Bob Marley and U2, and how Island developed them under his guidance and vision. But it’s not all about him and that feels right.

It’s fascinating too to track the emergence of Jamaican music from mente to reggae, and how the world grew to learn and love this formerly homegrown fusions of influences. Also so interesting to realize the role of clubs and jukeboxes (where Chris Blackwell began his career) in a world where few people had radios or record players.

Many memoirs spend way too much time on an author’s most recent and less interesting projects. Thank you, Chris Blackwell and editors, for providing a brief but not overly thorough view of his most recent years.

The book even ends with an answer to the question “what is the purpose of life?” provided by one of the most interesting characters in the book. Bill Nighy delivers it perfectly.

Not a memoir for everyone by any means. But more compelling and personal without being gossipy than I had expected.

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Fascinating book about a fascinating person

I really enjoyed this book. I'm a massive music fan and the business aspects of building some of the biggest careers in that arena were fascinating to hear about. Interesting too Mr. Blackwell's involvement in the revitalization of Miami Beach and his Jamaican hotelier activities. Definitely recommend to anyone interested in music, the music business, or popular culture from the 50s through today.