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Legendary record producer explains why he never wanted to be photographed with Bob Marley

·2 min read

On a recent episode of Influencers with Yahoo Finance’s Editor-in-Chief 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, a kind of white management type guy who was hanging around claiming what they've helped happen or something like that, you know, because they did,” 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 released a memoir called “The Islander: My Life in Music and Beyond,” grew up in Jamaica, where he developed a lifelong affinity for Rastafari culture. In 1958, he started Island Records, the multinational record label now owned by Universal Music Group. Around a decade later, a mutual friend introduced him to Bob Marley, marking the beginning of a fruitful partnership. Together, the two worked on nine studio albums.

“He just had a really great sense of how to put together his songs and how to record them,” Blackwell said.

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 23: Record producer Chris Blackwell attends OZY Fusion Fest 2016 at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park on July 23, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for Ozy Fusion Fest)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 23: Record producer Chris Blackwell attends OZY Fusion Fest 2016 at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park on July 23, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for Ozy Fusion Fest)

Marley had a complicated relationship with race. As a mixed-race youth in Jamaica (his father was white and his mother was Black), Marley endured bullying by neighbors who called him “white boy,” according to Chris Salewicz’s biography. Marley was also a staunch pan-Africanist and Rastafarian, believing in the global union of African people.

“Them call me half-caste, or whatever. Well, me don’t dip on nobody’s side,” Marley said in footage featured in the 2021 documentary Marley, “Me don’t dip on the black man’s side nor the white man’s side. Me dip on God’s side, the one who create me and cause me to come from black and white, who give me this talent.”

Blackwell says Marley stood out not only because his melodies, but because of his message. Throughout his career, Marley wrote several songs speaking out against racism and other social ills — preaching love and acceptance. For instance, Marley's hit single Redemption Song emphatically calls for the emancipation of all African peoples. Another song, called War decries colonialism.

“I think his songs are really great songs,” Blackwell remarked. “They're not normal dance songs or, you know — you know, there's songs which have a real purpose to them. And he's got a great sense. Really, just a naturally gifted, a natural leader.”