Worldwise: Favorite Things From The Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Chris Blackwell
While the latest James Bond film No time to die has kept us on hold with several release delays over the past year due to the pandemic, Chris Blackwell’s new rum brand launched their 007 Limited Edition rum last November to commemorate the 25th Bond movie, which is now slated to hit theaters this fall.
Founded in 2008, Blackwell Rum is a non-distilling producer of aged rums in Jamaica, made by J. Wray & Nephew, formerly owned by the family of Blackwell’s mother, the Lindos.
The award-winning “Black Gold” blend for Blackwell Fine Jamaica Rum was developed by Joy Spence, the world’s first female master blender, who works for Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum. Spence used an old recipe from the Lindo family aged in American oak barrels for added richness. The Bond Special Edition comes in a matte black bottle with the 007 logo and features an augmented reality experience via QR code, where Blackwell, who is best known for discovering Bob Marley, shares life stories, music selections , cocktail recipes, etc.
Blackwell was born and educated in England, but lived much of his life in Jamaica, where his family line dates back to the early 17th century. He met Bond creator Ian Fleming in Jamaica as a child and worked as a scout on the first Bond film, 1962. Dr No. Scenes from No time to die were filmed on the island.
A contender for the World’s Most Interesting Man, Blackwell founded Island Records in 1959, introducing the world to reggae and the Bob Marley and the Wailers, which he produced. He has also worked with many other music legends including U2, Roxy Music, Brian Eno, and Grace Jones. In 2002, Bono presented Blackwell for his induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
In 1976, Blackwell purchased GoldenEye, the house of Fleming, where he wrote the 14 Bond novels. He maintained the villa as an entertainment area and a guest house.
After selling Island Records in 1989, he founded the Island Outpost boutique hotel group, including GoldenEye, which is now a resort property comprised of a collection of cottages, beach huts and villas, including Fleming’s. Strawberry Hill and The Caves in Negril complete the small portfolio.
Blackwell founded the Oracabessa Foundation in 1997 when he planned to expand GoldenEye. He says he originally created the foundation to get feedback from locals on his plans for developing the area. Since then, the organization has been committed to improving the life of the local community through various initiatives, especially in the areas of health, environment, education, sports and entrepreneurship.
Blackwell recently spoke with Penta about some of his favorite things, places and memories, including an unforgettable Bob Marley concert from a long time ago.
My favorite neighborhood is … the Upper West Side in New York.
If I had to buy a work of art … it would be a sculpture by local artist Gene Pearson. He is known for his beautiful faces. They are dramatic. Soulful. I have quite a few at home and in my hotels here.
My most memorable concert was … in 1980 in Turin, Italy. At the time, Italy banned major rock concerts because some had gotten out of hand. It was the first big gig in a few years, and it was a 100,000 seat stadium with Bob Marley, who had never performed for so many people before in his life. I will never forget him. I was in the locker room with him when they called him to go on stage. I was walking with him to the stage, and it was so great to watch him. He couldn’t believe all those people who lit their lighters – just amazing, his feet weren’t even touching the ground.
A trip that I would like to do again is … Lake Powell, Arizona. It’s amazing, like going to another planet. It was created when they built a dam and blocked off the whole area and turned it into a lake. It is so beautiful, and not many people have been there.
Once I can travel safely, I want to go to … Italy, and I want to go to Paris.
One person who inspired me to do what I do is … a cousin of mine who passed away about 10 years ago, John Pringle. He developed Round Hill, truly one of the best hotels in the world. He had amazing taste and style – he was really unique and did his thing completely, an independent character.
If I could have a drink with anyone anywhere it would be … with Elon Musk at GoldenEye’s Bizot Bar.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.