The billionaire who loved to jam in Jamaica

By Howard Campbell
Observer senior writer

Sunday, October 21, 2018

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Paul Allen, the Microsoft co-founder who died on October 15, was not only a computer genius and one of the world's wealthiest men, but an outstanding guitarist who loved reggae and Jamaica.

Allen, who was 65 years-old when he died from non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, was a close friend of Jamaican disc jockey and music industry player Wayne Jobson. He visited Jamaica regularly, hanging out and playing guitar.

“Paul first came to Jamaica in 1995 when the public was still unaware of him. Dave Stewart (of The Eurhythmics), who had signed my brother Brian and his group FOUR to his record label, had invited Paul to come down to experience the island and that's how I met him. A few of us stayed at a tiny, inexpensive hotel in Negril and played guitar for most of the night. I think that's where Paul discovered the magical side of Jamaica,” Jobson told the

According to Jobson, “Paul was very reserved and quiet, so you would never know that he was a genius and one of the great minds of our time. Most of the world's computers run on a code from inside his brain!”

Allen and fellow Seattle native Bill Gates co-founded Microsoft in 1975. The company became a tech powerhouse in the 1990s when Seattle became one of the world's boom locations, thanks to other commercial phenomena like Starbucks Coffee and grunge music.

The reclusive Allen resigned from Microsoft in 2000, but maintained a major shareholder's role in the company. He donated millions of dollars to education, medical and scientific research, particularly in Washington State.

Allen also owned successful sports franchises like the Portland Trailblazers and Seattle Seahawks in the NBA and NFL, respectively. When he died, he had a net worth of $21.3 billion.

One of his greatest passions was music. Allen was inspired to play guitar after listening to Jimi Hendrix, another Seattle native. He befriended the legendary musician's father, Al, and in 2000 opened the Jimi Hendrix Experience Museum (aka Experience Music Project (EMP) Museum in Seattle.

Jobson, who attended the EMP launch, last saw Allen in January when he visited Jamaica.

“Paul looked forward to his trips here, especially at Christmas, and around this time almost every year we would start hearing from him asking if we were going to be there for Christmas. I'll really miss that this year,” said Jobson. “He particularly loved jerk chicken and had his chef study the best jerk places to find the greatest one. He was a wicked guitarist and we would jam Bob Marley songs with his band.”

In a recent interview with Vulture magazine, Quincy Jones expressed appreciation for Allen's Hendrix-inspired style.

For Jobson, Allen's friend of 25 years, “The world has lost an incredible mind, spirit and heart; philanthropist, musician, sports king, computer virtuoso and prodigy.”

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