Q&A: Bob Marley Producer Chris Blackwell on the 40th Anniversary of ‘Catch a Fire’


From Rolling Stone:

Forty years ago this month, Island Records founder Chris Blackwell introduced the world to Bob Marley and the Wailers with the groundbreaking album Catch a Fire. The seminal work smoothly blended pop and protest with a slow, syncopated shuffle. It broke racial, religious and musical barriers and put Marley on the map.

What are your thoughts about Catch a Fire 40 years after its release?
I think Catch a Fire is fantastic. I think it’s really stood up well. When it was finished and coming out, I was really excited. I felt it would be a really important album. I thought very early that it would sell a million copies. But it took a good few years to sell a million. The first six or eight months, it was very disappointing because you have none of the things going for you like singles. They didn’t get radio play. And they weren’t really touring at first, either. So, the album was really based on the merits of its own content until it started to build a following.

Is it true that Rastafarians once saved your life after you were stranded on a mangrove island?
Yes. In 1958, I was stranded in a mangrove very far from anywhere. I walked for miles and miles to find someone. I was literally dying of thirst. I came across a little clearing and in the clearing was a little hut. I called out and this Rasta man poked his head through the window. At the time Rastafarians were really ostracized in Jamaica. They were totally outside the system and considered very dangerous. I recently read about how seriously badly people treated them, how they had no rights. Anyway, I remember at the time I was terrified of the man. But I was dying of thirst so I asked him for water. He gave me some water in a gourd and he was as sweet and gentle as any man could be. I laid down and fell asleep. After several hours I woke up and there were several of them surrounding me and I got terrified all over again. But that was just for a minute. Eventually, one of them took me back. It had a profound impact on me, and changed how I saw Rastafarians.

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