Johnny Marr, Bono, Tom Waits pay tribute to music PR Rob Partridge

PR oversaw Bob Marley, discovered U2 and helped start Mercury Prize

Music industry figures including Johnny Marr, Tim Burgess, Bono, Tom Waits and Marianne Faithfull have paid tribute to Rob Partridge, the legendary music PR who died last Wednesday (November 26).

Partridge started his career as a journalist, writing for the likes of Melody Maker, Rolling Stone and The Guardian, before becoming head of press at Island Records in 1977.

With punk and reggae rejuvenating the UK music scene, Island Records became a major force in the late ’70s, and Partridge worked with many of the era’s biggest artists.


He was instrumental in the organisation of Bob Marley‘s iconic One Love Peace Concert in Jamaica in 1978, where Marley managed to unite the two leaders of Jamaica’s main rival political parties.

An avid Queens Park Rangers supporter all his life, Partridge would also organise kickabouts for Marley when he came to London.

Famously, Partridge convinced Island Records boss Chris Blackwell to sign U2 after taking him to see the band in a south London pub in 1980.

Speaking of Partridge‘s death, Blackwell said: “He was one of the most honourable men I have met in my life.”

After leaving Island Records, Partridge set up the public relations and management company Coalition in 1991.

Artists on the label’s roster have included The Charlatans, The Libertines, The Strokes, Billy Bragg and Joe Strummer. Partridge was also involved instigating The Nationwide Mercury Prize.


Tributes for Partridge have flooded in since he passed away last week aged 60 after a two-year battle with bowel and liver cancer. He is survived by his wife Tina.

The Charlatans‘ frontman Tim Burgess said: “Rob and Tina welcomed The Charlatans and me personally into their family. Rob would play us inspirational records and Tina would make us tea. I was very proud to be friends with them, I remember Rob‘s smile when he turned us on to something we had never heard before. Life for me is all about great records and magic moments. I am so proud to say that I have shared both with Rob. My heart goes out to Tina.”

Johnny Marr, who is on Coalition‘s roster, said: “Rob was a lovely guy, gentle and polite, but not above good devilish humour. He loved soulful music and working with soulful artists, because he was soulful himself.”

Tom Waits, writing in a joint tribute along with his wife Kathleen Brennan, called Partridge a “pioneering navigator”.

Rob was a great man, a dear friend to the whole family and a pioneering navigator who we worked with for 25 years,” they said. “Our hearts go out to his loving wife, Tina. Here on earth a very bright and warm light has gone out but there is a strange new bird in heaven…the Rob Partridge.”

Bono thanked Partridge for discovering and nurturing U2: “Rob Partridge was the first person in the British music industry to sing our praises. He not only had an eye for upcoming talent, he was a nurturer…a person who would educate you about the kind of obstacles you were going to meet and how to get over them…a rare human being.”

Marianne Faithfull also paid her respects, saying Partridge was “one of the greatest men I have known and a great man to work with. I don’t know what I will do without him, we have been friends for so long”.

NME would like to add its tribute to Rob Partridge – see this week’s issue for more.