In the world of Reggae music, it can be hard to escape the considerable shadow created and left behind by the legendary Bob Marley, but Jimmy Cliff has done just that during a career spanning more than four decades that has earned him his rightful recognition as one of the pioneers of the genre.
Born in St. James, Jamaica in 1948, Jimmy moved to Kingston in 1962 to attend school. It didn’t take long for him to make a name for himself as his song “Hurricane Hattie” became a local hit that same year.
Cliff began to earn recognition outside of Jamaica in 1964 when he was chosen to be part of the contingent representing his country at the World’s Fair in New York City. Following his exposure there, he moved to England to record his debut album for Island Records.
Released in 1968, “Hard Road to Travel” featured the single “Waterfall” and was well received by critics. A year later his star began to rise even higher with his follow up album “Wonderful World, Beautiful People.” By now he was attracting the attention of the some of the biggest names in the music industry. Bob Dylan himself referred to the song “Vietnam” from Cliff’s second album as being the single greatest protest song he had ever heard. During this same period Cliff released a cover of the Cat Stevens classic “Wild World.”
Jimmy Cliff cemented his place in the music world in 1972 when he starred in the film “The Harder They Come.” His character Ivan Martin, like Cliff himself, arrived in Kingston as a young man looking to make it big in the recording industry. Unlike Cliff, Ivan is not successful and ultimately turns to a life of crime.
The film became a cult classic in the United States, but it is the soundtrack that is now credited as having played a major role in popularizing reggae music in the United Stated and throughout the world. The heart and soul of the soundtrack is supplied by Cliff whose tracks “The Harder They Come”, “Many Rivers to Cross” and “You Can Get It If You Really Want” have each become staples of the reggae genre. The album’s popularity endures 40 years later as Rolling Stone, Time, Blender and Pitchfork magazines (among others) include it on their lists of greatest albums of all times.
Cliff has continued to tour and record and act as reggae’s greatest living ambassador in subsequent years. His 2012 album “Rebirth” earned him a Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album. In 2003 the Jamaican government awarded Cliff the Order of Merit, the island nation’s third-highest honor, in recognition of his contributions to the film and music of his country. In 2010 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, becoming just the second reggae musician (after Bob Marley) to earn the honor.
It’s a rare occurrence to be able to attend the performance of a legendary artist who has lost little to nothing off his/her game, but that’s the opportunity attendees of the 2013 Roots & Blues & BBQ Festival will be afforded with the appearance of Jimmy Cliff on Sunday, September 22nd. Enter here for your chance to win a pair of “Whole Hog” VIP Passes and hotel accommodations for the weekend.
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