Jimmy Cliff

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Jimmy Cliff

Jimmy Cliff - Festival du Bout du Monde 2012 - 022.jpg
Cliff performing in 2012
Background information
Birth nameJames Chambers
Born (1948-04-01) 1 April 1948 (age 71)
Somerton District, St. James, Jamaica
Genres Ska, reggae
Occupation(s)Musician, singer, actor
Instruments Vocals, guitar, piano, conga, keyboards
Years active1962–present
Labels Island, Columbia, Trojan, EMI, CBS [1]
Website jimmycliff.com

James Chambers, OM (born 1 April 1948 [2] ), known professionally as Jimmy Cliff, is a Jamaican ska and reggae musician, multi-instrumentalist, singer, and actor. Along with Bunny Wailer he is one of only two living musicians to hold the Order of Merit, the highest honour that can be granted by the Jamaican government for achievements in the arts and sciences.

Ska is a music genre that originated in Jamaica in the late 1950s and was the precursor to rocksteady and reggae. It combined elements of Caribbean mento and calypso with American jazz and rhythm and blues. Ska is characterized by a walking bass line accented with rhythms on the off beat. It was developed in Jamaica in the 1960s when Prince Buster, Clement "Coxsone" Dodd, and Duke Reid formed sound systems to play American rhythm and blues and then began recording their own songs. In the early 1960s, ska was the dominant music genre of Jamaica and was popular with British mods. Later it became popular with many skinheads.

Reggae Music genre from Jamaica

Reggae is a music genre that originated in Jamaica in the late 1960s. The term also denotes the modern popular music of Jamaica and its diaspora. A 1968 single by Toots and the Maytals, "Do the Reggay" was the first popular song to use the word "reggae", effectively naming the genre and introducing it to a global audience. While sometimes used in a broad sense to refer to most types of popular Jamaican dance music, the term reggae more properly denotes a particular music style that was strongly influenced by traditional mento as well as American jazz and rhythm and blues, especially the New Orleans R&B practiced by Fats Domino and Allen Toussaint, and evolved out of the earlier genres ska and rocksteady. Reggae usually relates news, social gossip, and political comment. Reggae spread into a commercialized jazz field, being known first as "Rudie Blues", then "Ska", later "Blue Beat", and "Rock Steady". It is instantly recognizable from the counterpoint between the bass and drum downbeat, and the offbeat rhythm section. The immediate origins of reggae were in ska and rocksteady; from the latter, reggae took over the use of the bass as a percussion instrument.

Bunny Wailer Jamaican musician

Neville O'Riley Livingston, OM, best known as Bunny Wailer, is a Jamaican singer songwriter and percussionist and was an original member of reggae group The Wailers along with Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. A three-time Grammy award winner, he is considered one of the longtime standard-bearers of reggae music. He is also known as Bunny Livingston and affectionately Jah B.


Cliff is best known among mainstream audiences for songs such as "Wonderful World, Beautiful People", "Many Rivers to Cross", "You Can Get It If You Really Want", "The Harder They Come", "Reggae Night", and "Hakuna Matata", and his covers of Cat Stevens's "Wild World" and Johnny Nash's "I Can See Clearly Now" from the film Cool Runnings . He starred in the film The Harder They Come , which helped popularize reggae across the world, [3] and Club Paradise . Cliff was one of five performers inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010.

Mainstream is the prevalent current thought that is widespread.

Many Rivers to Cross 1969 single by Jimmy Cliff

"Many Rivers to Cross" is a song written and recorded in 1969 by Jimmy Cliff. It has since been recorded by many musicians, including Harry Nilsson, John Lennon, Joe Cocker, Percy Sledge, Desmond Dekker, UB40, Cher, The Brand New Heavies, Eric Burdon & The Animals, The Walker Brothers, Marcia Hines, Toni Childs, Oleta Adams, Linda Ronstadt, Annie Lennox, Bryan Adams, and Jimmy Barnes.

"You Can Get It If You Really Want" is a famous late rocksteady song written and performed by the Jamaican reggae singer songwriter Jimmy Cliff. A version was recorded by Jamaican singer Desmond Dekker, becoming a hit in its own right as a single released in a number of markets, reaching number 2 on the UK Singles Chart. It was classified as number 27 on the 1970 Year-end Chart in the UK.

Early life and education

Jimmy Cliff was born in Somerton District, Saint James, Jamaica. [4] He began writing songs while still at primary school in St. James, listening to a neighbour's sound system. In 1962 his father took him to Kingston to go to Kingston Technical school, where he ended up sharing his cousin's one rented room in East Kingston.

Saint James Parish, Jamaica Parish in Cornwall, Jamaica

St. James is a suburban parish, located on the north-west end of the island of Jamaica. Its capital is Montego Bay. Montego Bay was officially named the second city of Jamaica, behind Kingston, in 1981, although Montego Bay became a city in 1980 through an act of the Jamaican Parliament. The parish is the birthplace of the Right Excellent Samuel Sharpe, one of Jamaica's seven National Heroes.

Jamaica Country in the Caribbean

Jamaica is an island country situated in the Caribbean Sea. Spanning 10,990 square kilometres (4,240 sq mi) in area, it is the third-largest island of the Greater Antilles and the Caribbean. Jamaica lies about 145 kilometres (90 mi) south of Cuba, and 191 kilometres (119 mi) west of Hispaniola ; the British Overseas Territory of the Cayman Islands lies some 215 kilometres (134 mi) to the north-west.

Kingston, Jamaica Capital city in Surrey, Jamaica

Kingston is the capital and largest city of Jamaica, located on the southeastern coast of the island. It faces a natural harbour protected by the Palisadoes, a long sand spit which connects the town of Port Royal and the Norman Manley International Airport to the rest of the island. In the Americas, Kingston is the largest predominantly English-speaking city south of the United States.


1960s and 1970s

Cliff sought out many producers while still going to school, trying to get his songs recorded without success. He also entered talent contests. "One night I was walking past a record store and restaurant as they were closing, pushed myself in and convinced one of them, Leslie Kong, to go into the recording business, starting with me," he writes in his own website biography. [3] After two singles that failed to make much impression, his career took off when "Hurricane Hattie" became a hit, while he was aged 14. [5] It was produced by Kong, with whom Cliff remained until Kong's death from a heart attack in 1971.

Leslie Kong was an influential Chinese-Jamaican reggae producer.

Cliff's later local hit singles included "King of Kings", "Dearest Beverley", "Miss Jamaica", and "Pride and Passion". In 1964, Cliff was chosen as one of Jamaica's representatives at the World's Fair in New York; and in the same year Cliff was featured in a program called “This is Ska!” alongside Prince Buster, Toots and the Maytals, and Byron Lee and the Dragonaires. [6] He soon signed to Island Records and moved to the United Kingdom. [5] Island Records initially (and unsuccessfully) tried to sell Cliff to the rock audience, but his career took off in the late 1960s. [7] His international debut album was Hard Road to Travel, released in 1967. It received excellent reviews and included "Waterfall" (composed by Nirvana's Alex Spyropoulos and Patrick Campbell-Lyons), which became a hit in Brazil and won the International Song Festival. [5]

1964 New York Worlds Fair Showcase of mid-20th-century American culture and technology fair

The 1964/1965 New York World's Fair was a world's fair that held over 140 pavilions, 110 restaurants, for 80 nations, 24 US states, and over 45 corporations to build exhibits or attractions at Flushing Meadows–Corona Park in Queens, New York City. The immense fair covered 646 acres (261 ha) on half the park, with numerous pools or fountains, and an amusement park with rides near the lake. However, the fair did not receive official sanctioning from the Bureau of International Expositions (BIE).

Prince Buster Jamaican singer-songwriter and producer

Cecil Bustamente Campbell OD, known professionally as Prince Buster, was a Jamaican singer-songwriter and producer. The records he released in the 1960s influenced and shaped the course of Jamaican contemporary music and created a legacy of work that would be drawn upon later by reggae and ska artists.

Toots and the Maytals Jamaican Ska/Rocksteady Band

Toots and the Maytals, originally called The Maytals, are a Jamaican musical group and one of the best known ska and rocksteady vocal groups. The Maytals were formed in the early 1960s and were key figures in popularizing reggae music. Frontman Toots Hibbert's soulful vocal style has been compared to Otis Redding, and led him to be named one of the 100 Greatest Singers by Rolling Stone. Their 1968 single "Do the Reggay", was the first song to use the word "reggae", naming the genre and introducing it to a global audience. As Island Records founder Chris Blackwell says, "The Maytals were unlike anything else ... sensational, raw and dynamic."

"Waterfall" was followed in 1969 by "Wonderful World, Beautiful People" and "Vietnam" in 1970, both popular throughout most of the world. Bob Dylan called "Vietnam" the best protest song he had ever heard. [3] Also during this period, Cliff released a cover of Cat Stevens' "Wild World" as a single, but it was not included on his Wonderful World, Beautiful People album.

Bob Dylan American singer-songwriter, musician, poet, author, and artist

Bob Dylan is an American singer-songwriter, author, and visual artist who has been a major figure in popular culture for more than fifty years. Much of his most celebrated work dates from the 1960s, when songs such as "Blowin' in the Wind" (1963) and "The Times They Are a-Changin'" (1964) became anthems for the civil rights movement and anti-war movement. His lyrics during this period incorporated a wide range of political, social, philosophical, and literary influences, defied pop-music conventions and appealed to the burgeoning counterculture.

A protest song is a song that is associated with a movement for social change and hence part of the broader category of topical songs. It may be folk, classical, or commercial in genre.

Cover version later version of a song already established with a different earlier performer

In popular music, a cover version, remake, cover song, revival, or simply cover, is a new performance or recording by someone other than the original artist or composer of a previously recorded, commercially released song.

In 1972, Cliff starred as Ivanhoe "Ivan" Martin in the classic reggae film, The Harder They Come , directed by Perry Henzell. [8] As the film tells Martin's story, he is a young man without funds. Arriving in Kingston from the country, he tries to make it in the recording business, but without success. Eventually, he turns to a life of crime. The soundtrack album of the film was a huge success that sold well across the world, bringing reggae to an international audience for the first time. It remains one of the most internationally significant films to have come out of Jamaica since independence. The film made its debut at London's Gaumont cinema in Notting Hill on 1 September 1972. [9] In 1975, Cliff sang on the first season of Saturday Night Live , episode 12, hosted by Dick Cavett. After a series of albums, Cliff took a break and traveled to Africa (the Nigeria-based Jamaican writer Lindsay Barrett was instrumental in Cliff's first trip there), [10] and subsequently converted to Islam, taking the new name: El Hadj Naïm Bachir. [11] [12]

1980s and 1990s

Cliff quickly returned to music, touring for several years before he recorded with Kool & the Gang. In 1984, Cliff appeared at the Pinkpop Festival in Landgraaf, Netherlands. During The River Tour, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band added Cliff's previously little-known song "Trapped" to their live set; it achieved great prominence when included on 1985's We Are the World benefit album. The follow-up, Cliff Hanger (1985), won a Grammy Award for 'Best Reggae Album', though it was his last major success in the United States until 1993. Also in 1985, Cliff contributed to the song "Sun City", a protest song written and composed by Steven Van Zandt and recorded by Artists United Against Apartheid to convey opposition to the South African policy of apartheid. [13] Cliff then provided backing vocals on The Rolling Stones' 1986 album Dirty Work , and appeared in the comedy Club Paradise , co-starring with Robin Williams and Peter O'Toole, [14] and contributed several songs to the soundtrack, including "Seven Day Weekend", which he sang with Elvis Costello. In 1988, his song "Shelter of Your Love" was featured in the hit film Cocktail .

Cliff appeared in the film Marked for Death in 1990, performing "John Crow" with the Jimmy Cliff Band. [15] His recording of "You Can Get It If You Really Want" was used as a campaign anthem by the Sandinista National Liberation Front in the 1990 election in Nicaragua. [16] In 1991, he performed at the second Rock in Rio festival in Estádio do Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He continued to sell well in Jamaica and, to a lesser extent, the UK, returning to the mainstream pop charts in the U.S. and elsewhere (#1 in France) with a version of Johnny Nash's "I Can See Clearly Now" on the Cool Runnings film soundtrack in 1993. In 1995, Cliff released the single "Hakuna Matata", a collaboration with Lebo M, a song from the soundtrack of the film The Lion King . In 1997, Cliff was a guest star in a 1997 episode of the Cartoon Network talk show Space Ghost Coast to Coast .

2000 to present

Jimmy Cliff performing in Bildein, Austria, 2012 Jimmy Cliff Picture-On-Festival Bildein 2012-08-10.JPG
Jimmy Cliff performing in Bildein, Austria, 2012

In 2001, Cliff became an inaugural member of the Independent Music Awards' judging panel to support independent artists. [17] In 2002, Cliff released the album Fantastic Plastic People in Europe, after first providing free downloads using p2p software. This album featured collaborations with Joe Strummer, Annie Lennox, and Sting as well as new songs that were very reminiscent of Cliff's original hits. In 2004, Cliff completely reworked the songs, dropping the traditional reggae in favour of an electronic sound, for inclusion in Black Magic. The album also included a recording of "Over the Border" with Joe Strummer. Cliff performed at the closing ceremony to the 2002 Commonwealth Games and in 2003, his song "You Can Get It If You Really Want" was included in the soundtrack to the film, Something's Gotta Give . He also appeared in July 2003 at the Paléo Festival in Nyon, Switzerland. The Jamaican government under P. J. Patterson honoured Cliff on 20 October 2003, by awarding him The Order of Merit, the nation's fourth-highest honour, in recognition of his contributions to the film and music of Jamaica. Cliff, Bunny Wailer and Mervyn Morris are the only currently living figures from the arts to hold this distinction and he is one of only two living musician (along with Bunny Wailer) to do so.

In 2007, Cliff performed at the opening ceremony at cricket's World Cup. In the spring and summer of 2010, Cliff embarked on an extensive tour of the U.S. and Canada. In 2007, "You Can Get It If You Really Want" was adopted by the British Conservative Party during their annual conference. [16] Cliff was quoted in The Independent as saying "One of my band mates called me this morning to tell me the news. I can't stop them using the song, but I'm not a supporter of politics. I have heard of Cameron, but I'm not a supporter. I don't support any politician. I just believe in right or wrong." [18]

In September 2009, he was nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, following a campaign on his behalf by the American Charles Earle. [19] Cliff reacted to the news by saying, "This is good for Cliff, good for Jamaican music and good for my country." On 15 December 2009, he was officially announced as an inductee and was inducted on 15 March 2010 by Wyclef Jean. [20]

Jimmy Cliff performing at Raggamuffin Music Festival#2011 Jimmy Cliff Raggamuffin Music Festival 2011 (5414933359).jpg
Jimmy Cliff performing at Raggamuffin Music Festival#2011

Cliff appeared in the 2011 documentary Reggae Got Soul: The Story of Toots and the Maytals which was featured on BBC and described as “The untold story of one of the most influential artists ever to come out of Jamaica”. [21] [22]

In 2011, Cliff worked with producer Tim Armstrong, lead singer of American punk band Rancid, on the EP The Sacred Fire [23] and the full-length album Rebirth . [24] Rebirth was nominated for a Grammy Award for 'Best Reggae Album'. [25] The album was listed at #12 on Rolling Stone's list of the top 50 albums of 2012, saying "There's ska, rock steady, roots reggae, a revelatory cover of The Clash's "Guns of Brixton" delivered in Cliff's trademark soulful tenor, grittier but still lovely more than 40 years after his debut." [26] In December 2012, Cliff was named 'Artist of the Year' by digital newspaper the Caribbean Journal, citing his work on Rebirth. [27]

On 25 June 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Jimmy Cliff among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire. [28]

Personal life

Cliff is not a member of the Rastafari movement, although he briefly was before converting to Islam from Christianity. [29] He now describes himself as having a "universal outlook on life", and does not align himself with any particular movement or religion, [29] [30] saying that "now I believe in science". [29] He is married and has a daughter Lilty Cliff and a son Aken Cliff. [31] [32] He is also the father of the actress/singer Nabiyah Be. [33]



YearTitlePeak positionsCertification

1967Hard Road to Travel [A]
1968Jimmy Cliff in Brazil [B]
1969 Jimmy Cliff [C]
1971Wild World
Goodbye Yesterday [D]
Another Cycle
1972 The Harder They Come 5140
1973Unlimited [E]
Struggling Man [F]
1974Music Maker [G]
1975Brave Warrior
Follow My Mind195
1978 Give Thankx
1980I Am the Living
1981Give the People What They Want
1983The Power and the Glory172925
1985 Cliff Hanger
1986Club Paradise
1987Hanging Fire
Shout for Freedom
Save Our Planet Earth
1992Breakout [H]
1996Higher & Higher [I] 8
1998Journey of a Lifetime
1999 Humanitarian
2002Fantastic Plastic People
We All Are One: The Best of Jimmy Cliff57
2004Black Magic13911
2011Sacred Fire EP1
2012 Rebirth 7183761


  • A. ^ Hard Road to Travel was released as Can't Get Enough of It in Jamaica in 1968 with minor changes in track listing.
  • B. ^ Jimmy Cliff in Brazil consisted of new recordings as well as songs from Hard Road to Travel and Can't Get Enough of It.
  • C. ^ Jimmy Cliff was released as Wonderful World, Beautiful People in the US in 1970.
  • D. ^ Goodbye Yesterday was released as Two Worlds in Jamaica with minor changes in track listing.
  • E. ^ Unlimited was re-released as The King of Reggae in 1976.
  • F. ^ Struggling Man consisted of new recordings as well as songs from Wild World.
  • G. ^ Music Maker was released as House of Exile in some territories.
  • H. ^ Breakout was re-released as Samba Reggae in some territories in 1999 with minor changes in track listing.
  • I. ^ Higher & Higher consists of new recordings as well as previously released material.

Compilations and live albums

YearTitlePeak positionsCertification


1975The Best of Jimmy Cliff
Pop Chronik
1976In Concert: The Best of Jimmy Cliff21
1978Many Rivers to Cross
1979Oh Jamaica
1982Reggae Nights: The Best of Jimmy Cliff
1984Many Rivers to Cross
1985Reggae Greats
1987Fundamental Reggay
1993The Best Of7
  • FRA: 2 × Gold [41]
Many Rivers to Cross
Gold Collection
Reggae Classics: The Very Best of Jimmy Cliff4757
1995Definitive Collection
Reggae Man
Vol. 2
1996Best of Jimmy Cliff [J]
1997Super Hits
Jimmy Cliff
100% Pure Reggae
1999Ultimate Collection8
Millenium Collection
Wonderful World Beautiful People
2000Simply the Best
Super Best
The Messenger: The Very Best of Reggae's Original Soul Star
Wonderful World
Live and in the Studio
2001Les Indispensables de Jimmy Cliff
2002We All Are One: The Best of Jimmy Cliff
2003Many Rivers to Cross: The Best of Jimmy Cliff
Island Reggae Classics
200420th Century Masters
Reggae Night
This Is Crucial Reggae
The EMI Years 1973–1975
Timeless Hits
2005The Harder They Come: The Definitive Collection
2006The Essential Jimmy Cliff
The Very Best of Jimmy Cliff & Peter Tosh [J]
The Harder They Come: The Early Years 1962–1972
Better Days Are Coming: The A&M Years 1969–1971
2008King of Kings: The Very Best of Jimmy Cliff
Reggae Legends
2010Harder Road To Travel: The Collection
2013Jimmy Cliff
The KCRW Session4
  • J. ^ Best of Jimmy Cliff and The Very Best of Jimmy Cliff & Peter Tosh charted in French Compilations Chart, at number 1 and 5 respectively.


YearTitlePeak positionsAlbum


[47] [48]
1962"Hurricane Hatty"single only
"Miss Jamaica"
"Since Lately"
1963"King of Kings"
"My Lucky Day"
"The Man"
1966"Pride and Passion"Hard Road to Travel
1967"Give and Take"
"I Got a Feeling"
"That's the Way Life Goes"Jimmy Cliff
1969"Waterfall"single only
"Many Rivers to Cross"37Jimmy Cliff
"Wonderful World, Beautiful People"131712625
"Come into My Life"2189
1970"Sufferin' in the Land"26
"Where Did It Go"single only
"Wild World"207511117328Wild World
"You Can Get It If You Really Want"single only
"Synthetic World"Goodbye Yesterday
1971"Goodbye Yesterday"3025
"Those Good Good Old Days"Struggling Man
"Sitting in Limbo"Another Cycle
1972"The Harder They Come"32The Harder They Come
"Struggling Man"Struggling Man
1973"Let's Seize the Time"
"On My Life"Unlimited
"Fundamental Reggay"
"Oh Jamaica"
1974"Music Maker"Music Maker
"Look What You Done to My Life, Devil Woman"
"Money Won't Save You"
"Don't Let It Die"Brave Warrior
1975"Every Tub"
"If I Follow My Mind"Follow My Mind
1976"Look at the Mountains"
"Dear Mother"
1977"Material World"Give the People What They Want
"Deal with Life"single only
1978"Treat the Youths Right"2213Special
"Bongo Man"Give Thankx
"Stand Up and Fight Back"
1979"Love I Need"
1980"All the Strength We Got"I Am the Living
"Another Summer"
"I Am the Living"
1981"Son of Man"Give the People What They Want
"Shelter of Your Love"
"My Philosophy"
1982"Rub-A-Dub Partner"Special
"Love Is All"
"Roots Radical"
"Peace Officer"
"Love Heights"
1983"Reggae Night"523586191The Power and the Glory
"We All Are One"2415334893
"Sunshine in the Music"2813
1984"Reggae Movement"single only
"Black Bess"
"De Youths Dem a Bawl"
1985"Hot Shot"2442Cliff Hanger
"American Sweet"
"Reggae Street"
1986"Seven-Day Weekend" (with Elvis Costello)Club Paradise
"Club Paradise"
1987"Roots Girl (Step Aside)"single only
"Rebel in Me"Images
"Hanging Fire"Hanging Fire
"Reggae Down Babylon"
"Soar Like an Eagle"
1988"Love Me Love Me"
1989"Pressure on Botha" (with Josey Wales)Images
"Dance Reggae Dance"Save Our Planet Earth
"Save Our Planet Earth"
"I'm a Winner"
1993"Samba Reggae"
"I Can See Clearly Now"17321523912318Cool Runnings
1994"(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher"5231Higher & Higher
1995"Hakuna Matata" (with Lebo M.)4667771032Rhythm of the Pride Lands
"Melody Tempo Harmony" (with Bernard Lavilliers)226single only
1999"Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da"Humanitarian
2002"Fantastic Plastic People"Fantastic Plastic People
2004"Jamaica Time" (with David A. Stewart)Black Magic
2011"Guns of Brixton"Sacred Fire EP
2012"One More"Rebirth
2013"C'mon Get Happy"single only

See also

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