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Jimmy Cliff on SNL in 1978
Jimmy Cliff on SNL in 1978
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Jimmy Cliff on Wikipedia
Jimmy Cliff
Jimmy Cliff - Festival du Bout du Monde 2012 - 022.jpgCliff performing in 2012
Background information
Birth nameJames Chambers
Born(1948-04-01) 1 April 1948 (age 69)
Somerton District, St. James, Jamaica
GenresSka, reggae
Occupation(s)Musician, singer, actor
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, piano, conga, keyboards
Years active1962–present
LabelsIsland, Columbia, Trojan, EMI, CBS[1]

Jimmy Cliff, OM (born James Chambers; 1 April 1948)[2] is a Jamaican ska and reggae musician, multi-instrumentalist, singer and actor. He is the only living musician to hold the Order of Merit, the highest honour that can be granted by the Jamaican government for achievements in the arts and sciences.

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' "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.


  • 1 Career
    • 1.1 Early life, 1960s, and 1970s
    • 1.2 1980s and 1990s
    • 1.3 2000 to present
  • 2 Personal life
  • 3 Discography
    • 3.1 Albums
    • 3.2 Compilations and live albums
    • 3.3 Singles
  • 4 See also
  • 5 References
  • 6 External links

Early life, 1960s, and 1970s

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.

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.

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; 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]

"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.

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, 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. He and Jack Logan were guest stars in the Cartoon Network talk show Space Ghost Coast to Coast.

2000 to present

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 third-highest honour, in recognition of his contributions to the film and music of Jamaica. Cliff and Mervyn Morris are the only currently living figures from the arts to hold this distinction and he is the only living musician 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.[18] In 2009, "You Can Get It If You Really Want" was adopted by the British Conservative Party during their annual conference.[16] It is unclear whether Cliff endorsed the political party. 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]

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]

Personal life

Cliff is not a member of the Rastafari movement, although he briefly was before converting to Islam from Christianity.[28] He now describes himself as having a "universal outlook on life", and does not align himself with any particular movement or religion,[28][29] saying that "now I believe in science". [28] He has a daughter and a son,[30] and resides in Jamaica.[31]


  • 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

  • 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.

See also

  • Caribbean music in the United Kingdom
  • List of converts to Islam
  • List of former Island Records artists
  • List of Jamaicans
  • List of reggae musicians
  • List of roots reggae artists
  • List of singer-songwriters


  1. ^ "Jimmy Cliff: Biography". www.answers.com. Retrieved 17 November 2011. 
  2. ^ "Jimmy Cliff - Biography". www.billboard.com. Retrieved 25 April 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c Colin Larkin (1998). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Reggae. Virgin Books. ISBN 0-7535-0242-9. 
  4. ^ Thompson, Dave (2002). Reggae & Caribbean Music. Backbeat Books. ISBN 0-87930-655-6. 
  5. ^ a b c Jo-Ann Greene. "Jimmy Cliff Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-12-23. 
  6. ^ Jw31209. "This Is Ska! (2/4) 1964 Jimmy Cliff/Prince Buster/Toots & The Maytals and More..." YouTube. YouTube, 05 Feb. 2010. Web. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dB2elK7PVFg> 02 Dec. 2016.
  7. ^ Steve Barrow; Peter Dalton (1997). Reggae: The Rough Guide. Rough Guides. ISBN 1-85828-247-0. 
  8. ^ "The Harder They Come (1972)". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2012-12-23. 
  9. ^ Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 242. CN 5585. 
  10. ^ "Jimmy Cliff planning sequel to The Harder They Come". The Caribzone. www.thecaribzone.com. 2009-11-24. Retrieved 2014-04-24. 
  11. ^ "Jimmy Cliff – Découvrez de la musique, des vidéos, des concerts, des stats, & des photos sur Last.fm" (in French). www.lastfm.fr. Retrieved 2012-08-13. 
  12. ^ "Jimmy Cliff - Toute l'actu !" (in French). Purepeople.com. Retrieved 2012-08-13. 
  13. ^ Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 409. CN 5585. 
  14. ^ "Club Paradise (1986)". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2012-12-23. 
  15. ^ "Marked for Death (1990) - Full Cast & Crew". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2012-12-23. 
  16. ^ a b Dugan, Emily (6 October 2007). "'I always support the lower classes': Jimmy Cliff's response to his adoption by Cameron". The Independent. Retrieved 24 August 2015. 
  17. ^ "Independent Music Awards - 1st Annual Judges". www.independentmusicawards.com. Archived from the original on 29 March 2013. Retrieved 2012-12-23. 
  18. ^ "Tour « Jimmy Cliff". Jimmycliff.com. Retrieved 2012-12-23. 
  19. ^ "Jimmy Cliff Still a Musical Rebel". Jamaica-gleaner.com. Archived from the original on 14 June 2012. Retrieved 2012-08-13. 
  20. ^ "2010 Induction Ceremony". rockhall.com. Retrieved 2014-04-24. 
  21. ^ “Toots and the Maytals: Reggae Got Soul”. BBC Four (documentary). Directed by George Scott. UK. 2011. 59 min. Retrieved 15 Dec. 2016. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00ymljb>
  22. ^ Tootsandthemaytals. "Toots & The Maytals - Reggae Got Soul - Documentary Trailer." YouTube. YouTube, 15 Aug. 2013. Web. 15 Dec. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SfiNMBhnd8w>
  23. ^ "Video: Reggae pioneer Jimmy Cliff". pbs.org. Retrieved 2014-04-24. 
  24. ^ "Jimmy Cliff working on new album with Tim Armstrong". Punknews.org. Retrieved 2012-08-13. 
  25. ^ "Jimmy Cliff's Rebirth nominated for Reggae Grammy album". The Jamaica Observer. www.jamaicaobserver.com. 2012-12-06. Retrieved 2012-12-08. 
  26. ^ "50 Best Albums of 2012: Jimmy Cliff, 'Rebirth'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2012-12-23. 
  27. ^ "Jimmy Cliff: Caribbean Journal's Artist of the Year for 2012". caribjournal.com. Retrieved 2012-12-31. 
  28. ^ a b c Collins, D. M. (9 April 2012). "JIMMY CLIFF: BOOM! SMASH! IT WENT SMASH!". L.A. Record. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  29. ^ "Interviews - Jimmy Cliff". Reggae News. Retrieved 2013-04-01. 
  30. ^ Nick McGrath (2012-07-21). "Jimmy Cliff: My family values". theguardian.com. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 2014-04-24. 
  31. ^ Holly Williams (2012-07-28). "My Secret Life: Jimmy Cliff, 64, reggae artist". The Independent. www.independent.co.uk. Retrieved 2014-04-24. 
  32. ^ a b "InfoDisc : Tous les Albums classés par Artiste" (in French). www.infodisc.fr. Archived from the original on 20 July 2015. Retrieved 2014-04-26. 
  33. ^ a b "Discografie Jimmy Cliff" (in Dutch). dutchcharts.nl. Retrieved 2014-04-26. 
  34. ^ a b "Discography Jimmy Cliff". charts.org.nz. Archived from the original on 4 May 2014. Retrieved 2014-04-26. 
  35. ^ a b "Discography Jimmy Cliff". swedishcharts.com. Retrieved 2014-04-26. 
  36. ^ a b "Jimmy Cliff" (in German). hitparade.ch. Archived from the original on 14 June 2014. Retrieved 2014-04-26. 
  37. ^ a b "JIMMY CLIFF full Official Chart History Official Charts Company". www.officialcharts.com. Retrieved 2015-08-09. 
  38. ^ a b c d "Jimmy Cliff Awards AllMusic". www.allmusic.com. Retrieved 2014-04-26. 
  39. ^ a b c d "InfoDisc : Les Certifications (Albums) du SNEP (Bilan par Artiste)" (in French). www.infodisc.fr. Archived from the original on 21 June 2010. Retrieved 2014-04-26. 
  40. ^ a b "Discographie Jimmy Cliff" (in French). www.ultratop.be. Retrieved 2014-04-26. 
  41. ^ a b "Offizielle Deutsche Charts" (in German). www.offiziellecharts.de. Retrieved 2015-08-09. 
  42. ^ "Discography Jimmy Cliff". australian-charts.com. Archived from the original on 3 May 2014. Retrieved 2014-05-01. 
  43. ^ "Discographie Jimmy Cliff" (in German). austriancharts.at. Archived from the original on 20 May 2014. Retrieved 2014-05-01. 
  44. ^ "Discografie Jimmy Cliff" (in Dutch). www.ultratop.be. Retrieved 2014-05-01. 
  45. ^ "Discographie Jimmy Cliff" (in French). lescharts.com. Retrieved 2014-04-25. 
  46. ^ http://www.infodisc.fr/Tubes_Artistes_C.php
  47. ^ "The Irish Charts - All there is to know". www.irishcharts.ie. Retrieved 2014-05-01. 
  48. ^ "Hit Parade Italia - Indice per Interprete: C" (in Italian). www.hitparadeitalia.it. Retrieved 2014-05-01. 

External links

  • Official website
  • Jimmy Cliff on Facebook
  • Jimmy Cliff at AllMusic
  • "Jimmy Cliff". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Edit this at Wikidata

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