Island Records celebrates 50th year

Label will host festival, release boxed sets

LONDON -- Islands Records will mark its 50th anniversary in May, with founder Chris Blackwell overseeing the weeklong "Island 50 Live" festival.

Blackwell founded the Island label in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1959 and moved to London in the early '60s. As well as championing Jamaican ska and rock-steady, the label went on to sign Bob Marley and U2. He sold Island to PolyGram in 1989 and it is now part of Universal Music Group.

Blackwell has agreed to oversee the festival, which will include live music, cinema, photography and memorabilia centered on Island artists past and present. It will be staged at London's Shepherds Bush Empire.

"It has been an honor and a privilege to work with some of the greatest musical artists of all time," Blackwell said in a statement. "It was always my intention at Island to make records that stood the test of time, and I'm proud that Island is still a potent force in music 50 years since that first release."

The anniversary will also be marked by classic album reissues, new compilations, deluxe boxed sets and digital bundles, alongside TV and radio documentaries.

"When I first started at Island in promotions in '88 Chris was still running things and I was in awe of him because the artists he signed soundtracked my life," Island co-president Darcus Beese said.

"I can't say that I've got over being in awe of him, but I can say that I'm immensely proud and humbled to be attempting to build on the incredible legacy that he created and it is a pleasure to be working with the great man to mark Island's 50th birthday."

Artists to appear on the Island label also include Cat Stevens, Traffic, Free, Fairport Convention, Nick Drake, Marianne Faithfull, Tom Waits, Roxy Music, Robert Palmer, the B-52's, Sly & Robbie, Melissa Etheridge, Grace Jones, Pulp, Tricky. More recently the label has signed Amy Winehouse, P.J. Harvey, DJ Shadow, Sugababes, Keane, the Fratellis, Scott Matthews, Paul Weller, the Feeling and Portishead.