He was born in Somerton district in St James, Jamaica on April 1st, 1948 and his parents christened him James Chambers. He began writing songs while still at primary school in St. James, where he grew up listening to a neighbour's sound system. In 1962 his father took him to the capital city Kingston to attend the Kingston Technical school in order for him to learn electrical technology.
He tried his hand at the local talent contests without success and would pitch a song he had written entitled “Dearest Beverley” to the owner of Beverly’s Ice Cream and Record Shop- Leslie Kong and his two brothers. The brothers virtually took the advice of the young Cliff and thus began “Beverley’s Records” as well as the launch of Jimmy Cliff’s recording career. Kong recorded Clifff’s song as well as one other, none of which were successful. His third song “Hurricane Hattie” was a hit but not as big as “Miss Jamaica” after which Leslie Kong never looked back. Jimmy Cliff's realized a number of local hit singles which included "King of Kings", "Dearest Beverley", "Miss Jamaica", and "Pride and Passion"
His Career Took Off
In 1964, he was chosen as one of Jamaica's representatives attending the World’s Fair in New York. He was soon signed to Chris Blackwell’s Island Records and moved to the United Kingdom where Island Records unsuccessfully tried to market him to the Rock Music audience. Nonetheless, his career took off in the late 1960s with his 1969 international debut album “Hard Road to Travel” which received excellent reviews. The album included the hit "Waterfall" which became a hit in Brazil and won the International Song Festival, “Hello Sunshine”, “Come Into My Life”, “Many Rivers to Cross”, “Wonderful World, Beautiful People" and the global protest song "Vietnam" in 1970 in response to the human tragedy of the Vietnam War. Renowned American musician Bob Dylan commented that “Vietnam” was the best protest song he had ever heard. Both "Vietnam" and "Wonderful World, Beautiful People" realized rave reviews globally and Jimmy Cliff followed this up with a cover of Cat Stephens’ “Wild World” which equally enjoyed huge popularity. Since 1970 Jimmy Cliff has developed a resume and music output catalogue that is unmatched by any other Jamaican recording artiste apart from Bob Marley. Songs like “Sitting Here in Limbo” (1971) “Bongo Man”(1974), “The Rebel in Me” (1993) In 1981 Bruce Springsteen included Jimmy Cliff’s little known song “Trapped” to their live set. The song achieved even greater prominence after inclusion on the 1985 Benefit album “We Are the World” In the same year Cliff’s album “Cliff Hanger” won a Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album.
The Harder They Come
Jimmy Cliff starred in the 1972 Perry Henzell written and directed classic film “The Harder they Come’ which told the story of Ivanhoe "Ivanhoe" Martin, a young man from the country who journeys to Kingston to try to make it in the recording business. Having no success he turns to a life of crime. The film is today considered a “cult classic” and its soundtrack album was a huge success that sold well across the world helping considerably in 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. Cliff has starred in other film productions including the 1986 Club Paradise as Revolutionary Ernest Reed, and appeared in “Marked for Death” with Steven Seagal for which the song “John Crow” featured
Apartheid and a Grammy
Also in 1985 he contributed to the song "Sun City," a protest song written and composed by Stephen Van Zandt and recorded by Artists United against Apartheid to convey opposition to the South African government’s policy of Apartheid. In 1986 Jimmy Cliff’s album Cliff Hanger won a Grammy Award for the Best Reggae Album. The album featured songs such as: “Hitting With Music”, “Nuclear War”, “Hot Shot”, “Dead And Awake”, “Reggae Street”, “Sunrise” and “Brown Eyes.”
In 1988, his song "Shelter of Your Love" was featured in the hit film “Cocktail”. The same year he released the album “The Power and The Glory” which included songs such as “We All Are One”, “Sunshine in The Music”, “Power and The Glory”, “Reggae Night”, “Roots Woman”, “Journey” and “Love Solution.”
In 1991 Jimmy Cliff appeared at the second Rock in Rio festival in Rio de Janerio, Brazil before returning to the mainstream pop charts in the US and elsewhere with the song (a Johnny Nash remake) “I Can See Clearly Now”
On October 20th, 2003, the Government of Jamaica awarded James “Jimmy Cliff” Chambers “The Order of Merit”, the Nation's fourth-highest honour, in recognition of his contributions to the film and music of Jamaica. Jimmy Cliff and Mervyn Morris; Poet and Professor Emeritus of the University of the West Indies are the only currently living figures from the Arts to hold this distinction and Jimmy Cliff is the only living musician to do so. 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. 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. Check out our other videos on Jimmy Cliff and multiple other Jamaican artistes at : www.yaawdmedia.com/videos
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