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Visit this artist's website: http://www.jimmycliff.com
Greetings to everyone, my name is JIMMY CLIFF, actor, music innovator, singer, songwriter, music producer, “Artivist,” businessman, and much more...
I took the name “Jimmy Cliff” with the intention of establishing myself as such throughout this planet – as high as the Cliffs of Adelphi Land, where I was told I was born, which seemed like the highest peak on the Earth when I was a child. Adelphi Land is a village in the District of Somerton in the parish of St. James, Jamaica, an island in the Caribbean.
My parents, who remain my hero and “she-ro,” named me James Chambers at birth. I was making music from the day I came out of my mother’s womb and said “AAAH,” and I was acting since I could walk and laugh like my mother. People would pay me to do that, so acting was what I loved to do most; even today, I think I am better at acting than singing/songwriting.
I discovered that I had a very unique voice while singing in primary school and at the Pentacostal Church that my family attended.
When the political landscape changed in Jamaica and the island became independent from Britain, the music was upbeat – expressing the spirit of the people as a result of this change – begetting Ska, an up-tempo, upbeat rhythm.
The “sound system” – a name given to groups of DJs, engineers, and MCs who play ska, rocksteady, or reggae music – was and is an integral part of the Jamaican social scene, especially to the working class; they rely on sound systems for their entertainment and social life. Sound systems have affected my life from my boyhood days in the countryside of Jamaica, where I could listen to the local sound system at the big upstairs house that sat beside the little house where I lived with my father and my brother.
This big upstairs downstairs house had a bar called the Money Rock Tavern, where the sound system called Pope Pius would play – this was my only opportunity to hear different kinds of music, especially Latin American. My parents were staunch Christians, so I was not permitted to associate with those kinds of music; I had to hide and steal away to go to the fairgrounds where dances and fairs were held. There, I saw the latest dance moves and heard the latest rumba, R&B, calypso, and merengue beats.
A little later in my youth, my father bought a little battery-powered radio, so I had another opportunity to tune in to American music, particularly New Orleans and Miami, and also to the music of Cuba, which is only 90 miles away from Jamaica. On the local radio station I learned of artists writing and recording their own songs, so I decided to write my own while still in school, quite a feat for a little country boy – but I had high ambitions. Among the locals who inspired me were Derrick Morgan, Prince Buster, and Monty Morris.
After leaving primary school at Somerton my father took me to Kingston, the capital of Jamaica, to attend technical school. I spoke to many producers while studying radio and TV in school, trying to get songs recorded without much luck. One night I walked past a record store and restaurant as they were closing. I pushed myself in, sang for the owners of the store, and convinced one of them, Leslie Kong, to go into the recording business with me.
My second recording with him, Hurricane Hattie, became a No. 1 hit in Jamaica. I followed that hit up with Miss Jamaica, One Eyed Jacks, and King of Kings. Leslie Kong went on to become “King Kong” among producers in Jamaica. This was the “ska era” of Jamaican Music.
Chris Blackwell, a Jamaican/British music producer/businessman was the point man in the U.K. for Jamaican music. I was on my way to fulfilling my mission when I met him after being invited to perform at the New York World’s Fair. He invited me to relocate to England. My sojourn to Europe was full of valuable experiences.
After about four years in Europe touring and recording I was invited to perform at an international song festival in Brazil, which proved very successful for me. I journeyed throughout South America touring and writing songs in Argentina, Chile, Uraguay, Colombia, Panama, and Mexico. “Wonderful World Beautiful People” was one of the tunes from this time, which became my first international hit.
I scored another hit for myself with a Cat Stevens song, “Wild World.” There were a few other minor hits in the U.K. before I was offered to play the lead role in a movie to be shot in Jamaica, The Harder They Come, which allowed me to pursue my other love, acting.
The knowledge of my culture became increasingly important to my life. I dived into Christianity, Western Political concept, Rastafarian, Black Muslim, Islam, Buddhism, Marxism, Judaism, Hinduism, and the way of life of the indigenous peoples of the planet. This satisfied my soul, and helped me during the hard times of my life, especially when my mother and father passed away. I continued writing and producing albums that came out on various labels, including my own – Oneness, Sunpower Poductions, etc. – in Jamaica and the Caribbean.
My mission continues, focusing on movies, soundtracks and who-knows-what and -where, but I will always rebel against injustice, racism, and whatever schism I encounter along the way. I am now working on my new album, Existence, which I plan to have out in the summer of 2010.
I am also completing the final draft of a movie script, on which I also hope to start production in 2010. Of course, I am writing the soundtrack as well.
I am not “Johnny-Come-Lately” nor “Yesterday,” man, I live with the time – you can catch me online.
– JIMMY CLIFF