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Island Records 60th Anniversary

Featuring a Conversation with Darcus Beese and Chris Blackwell And a Special Performance by Jessie Reyez

The GRAMMY Museum is thrilled to host a program celebrating the 60th anniversary of Island Records. To discuss the history of the label and stories from over the decades, the GRAMMY Museum’s Founding Executive Director Bob Santelli will moderate an in depth discussion with Darcus Beese, President of Island Records, and Chris Blackwell, Founder of Island Records. Following the discussion, Island artist Jessie Reyez will perform.

 

DARCUS BEESE

In a thirty-year career, having worked his way up step-by-step since starting as a promotions intern, Island Records President Darcus Beese is perfectly attuned to the history and the culture at Island. He was a key figure in the company’s storied A&R tradition, having signed Amy Winehouse and worked with the likes of Florence Welch, Mumford and Sons, and PJ Harvey during his time in the label’s British operations. And today, he oversees a group of artists—from Shawn Mendes to the Killers, Elton John to Demi Lovato—that continues to expand the scope and impact of the pioneering label founded by Chris Blackwell in 1960.

 

CHRIS BLACKWELL

Chris Blackwell, founder of the ground breaking independent record label Island Records, is the owner and creator of Island Outpost, a progressive lifestyle company that at its center contains a celebrated collection of intimate Jamaican luxury hotels and villas. A businessman with nomadic, bohemian instincts, he paved the way for other unorthodox entrepreneurs from Richard Branson of Virgin to Russell Simmons of Def Jam. In founding Island Records, Blackwell helped internationalize reggae music, bringing the island’s culture to the world, signing amongst many others Bob Marley & the Wailers, Jimmy Cliff, Toots and the Maytals, Burning Spear, Third World and Black Uhuru. Diversifying into British folk and rock, Island Records also signed and developed Steve Winwood, Robert Palmer, Free, Nick Drake, Cat Stevens, Roxy Music, Melissa Etheridge, nurtured early U.2., and then worked with such classic “Island mavericks” as Tom Waits, Grace Jones and Marianne Faithful and the iconic African Artists, King Sunny Ade, Salif Keita, Baaba Maal and Angelique Kidjo.  Blackwell sold Island Records in 1989, remained on the company’s Board until 1997 and his enigmatic influence is still felt at the label.

 

JESSIE REYEZ

Toronto based singer-songwriter and rising global superstar Jessie Reyez debuted her RIAA certified-gold single “Imported” with 6LACK this spring, from her highly anticipated forthcoming studio album, slated for 2020 release via FMLY / Island Records. She most recently released a new song titled “Far Away,” which stays true to form with her brutal honesty, raw emotion, intimate lyrics and a voice so achingly pure that the heart-tugging effects of the song are undeniable. A poignant and powerful video through a lover’s lens underscores the harsh and unfortunate injustices being suffered by immigrant families and youth today, touching on controversial political subjects such as border patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and border detention.  “Far Away” was accompanied with evoking visuals that received critical acclaim from the likes of Variety, Rolling Stone, CBS News, Fader, Complex and more.  Last year’s monumental accomplishments included a sold-out 30-date tour, the Fall 2018 release of her second EP, Being Human in Public, which gained wide-spread acclaim from fans and critics alike including New York Times, Variety, Fader, NYLON and more. Her critically acclaimed single “Figures” was officially RIAA certified-gold in the U.S. She also performed her hit single “Apple Juice” at the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards, where she was nominated for Push Artist of the Year and Video with a Message for her powerful and crucial “Gatekeeper” music video. The young artist also had a slew of collaborations with many notable artists including Eminem, Daniel Caesar, Sam Smith, Lewis Capaldi and Karol G and co-writing credits on Dua Lipa’s hit song “One Kiss” with Calvin Harris and “Promises” with Calvin Harris and Sam Smith.