June 25, 2004 - 8:00 pm
Jimmy Cliff… Reggae Ambassador – the last surviving icon of reggae music, has earned his Musical Innovator, singer, songwriter, actor titles over an illustrious career.
Born in St. James, Jamaica, the young man who wanted to simply express himself through music and acting has gone on to influence an eclectic mix of artists from Bruce Springsteen, Jimmy and Paul Simon, to the Clash and Sublime. He began his career appearing at local shows. At 14, he moved to Kingston and took the surname of Cliff to express the heights he intended on reaching.
Leslie Kong paid for the 14 year old Cliff to record his first hit, “Hurricane Hattie”. While at Federal Studios to record “Miss Jamaica”, Cliff met Robert Nesta Marley (Bob Marley), whom Cliff helped to record his first tune, “Judge not.” Over the course of the next few years these two current day icons helped to create modern reggae music. “Today’s reggae music has gone through many formulations,” Cliff muses. “Originally known as Ska, it has evolved to “rock steady” to modern reggae, in its different forms.”
After conquering his Jamaican homeland, Cliff went on to conquer England, Africa, Europe and Brazil at the invitation of Island Records founder Chris Blackwell. That collaboration brought us Cliff’s hits “Wonderful World Beautiful People”, “Vietnam”, named by Bob Dylan as the best protest song he ever heard, and “Wild Wild World”. He also wrote and produced hits “You Can Get it if You Really Want,” for Desmond Decker and “Let your Yea Be Yea” for the Pioneers. Cliff’s introduction to U.S. listeners came as a result of his critically acclaimed role as a gun toting, “rude boy” in the 1970s cult classic, “The Harder They Come”. His performance garnered him rave reviews and forever established his place at the forefront of the reggae movement. The film also introduced the world to the classic reggae anthems “You Can get it if you Really Want” and “Many Rivers to Cross”. Music would never be the same again.
Cliff extended his acting career co-starring with Robin Williams and Peter O’Toole in “Club Paradise,” and in “Marked For Death” with Stephen Segal. He toured the US with Peter Tosh. There was also a fabulous performance at Reggae Sunsplash, 1983’s The Power and the Glory inaugurated his partnership with Kool & the Gang, and the album was nominated for a Grammy. Its follow-up, Cliff Hanger, would win the award in 1985. Cliff has been working on the sequel to his breakout film, “The Harder They Come 2.” “I’ve completed the outline, and the original writer, Percy Henzel, is now working on the script, which will be completed by September,” Cliff explains. “We should begin filming early next year in Jamaica and the U.S.” He is also writing for the soundtrack, which will include all new music.
Known for his easy, pop-friendly reggae style as well as harder-edged tunes with social and political lyrics and earnest voice, Jimmy Cliff has put his signature sound on some familiar hits. Cliff’s cover of Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now,” which was featured in the movie “Cool Runnings,” was a huge radio hit, and exposed him to a new and younger generation.
Other recent musical projects include “The Lion King,” where Cliff appeared alongside Elton John on the film’s soundtrack. His constant message of brotherhood and peace for the world are both heartfelt and genuine without pontificating. From decade to decade and 22 albums later, Jimmy Cliff is still drawing capacity crowds of all ages. In December, 1999 Cliff gave a heartfelt rendition of “No Woman No Cry” with Erika Badu at the Bob Marley All Star Tribute.
The tribute, which was telecast on the TNT Cable Network, featured contemporary artists like Ziggy Marley, Lauryn Hill, Sarah McLaughlin and Queen Latifah. Cliff is still extensively touring the United States, South America, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Africa and Tahiti. “I want to stimulate and motivate people to appreciate life – it’s my calling.” Cliff reflects. “My way of serving is through music, so that’s what I have to do.”
- 1967 Hard Road Island
- 1969 Give Thanks – Warner
- 1970 Wonderful World, Beautiful People – A&M
- 1971 Another Cycle – Island
- 1972 The Harder They Come – Island
- 1973 Struggling Man – Mango
- 1975 Brave Warrior – EMI
- 1976 Follow My Mind – WEA
- 1976 In Concert: The Best of Jimmy Cliff – Reprise
- 1977 Unlimited – Reprise
- 1980 I Am the Living – MCA
- 1981 Give the People What They Want – WEA
- 1981 House of Exile – EMI
- 1982 Special – Columbia
- 1982 Rub-a-Dub Partner – Columbia ¥ 1983 The Power & the Glory – Columbia
- 1983 Reggae Nights – Sony
- 1987 Hanging Fire – Columbia
- 1988 Best of Jimmy Cliff – Island
- 1989 Treat the Youths Right – Columbia
- 1997 Super Hits – Sony
- 2002 Fantastic Plastic People – Artist Network