08 February 2006
'The pilot of the U2 aeroplane.'
Great shots and more quotes from the Special Merit Awards Ceremony last night when Chris Blackwell was honoured - and the band had the words.
Cheered on by Adam and Paul McGuinness, Bono arrived on the podium to open his eulogy with references to Irish whiskey and Amelia Eirhart, the first woman to make a solo-return transcontinental flight.
"Do you know this is where she used to drink?" he asked.
'She Drank three quarterss of a bottle of whiskey before she took that flight...Why am I saying this ? Because she was a pioneer.'
Just like Chris Blackwell, the London-born, Jamaican-raised founder of Island Records, who first signed U2 way back when.
'First time I met Chris was in the depths of winter,' recalled Bono. 'The height of punk rock in the 70's in London. He was wearing Flip Flops - not very punk rock or maybe very punk rock...I thought, 'This man's not a follower of fashion, he's a pioneer.''
Reflecting on a career in which Blackwell has provided career-making breaks to such artists as Bob Marley, Steve Winwood, Cat Stevens and Roxy Music, Bono said, 'People might say Chris was lucky to be in the room when Bob Marley walked in. But when it happens with 15 or 20 different artists, we realize that we we're all lucky to be in the room with him.
Bono explained that if truth be told and U2 had arrived on the scene today
They wouldn't have made it past the second album - but Chris Blackwell believed in them and stuck with them.
'Thank you for being the pilot of the U2 aeroplane,' he added. 'We wouldn't be here without you.'
Blackwell explained his long career by saying, 'I'm simply a fan of music, and if you really love something, it never feels like going to work.'
Our snaps show Bono making the award to Chris Blackwell along with Neil Portnow, President of The Recording Academy.
More on the Special Merit Awards here