Artists   >   C   >  Jimmy Cliff
Jimmy Cliff

Jimmy Cliff

Fact Sheet

Musical genre:Reggae  
Birthday1 April 1948 (69)
Birthplace  Jamaica
Jimmy Cliff, real name James Chambers (born April 1, 1948) is a Jamaican reggae musician, best known among mainstream audiences for songs like "Many Rivers to Cross" from The Harder They Come, a film soundtrack which helped break reggae into markets across the world.

Cliff's career took off after his "Hurricane Hattie" became a hit; it was produced by Leslie Kong, with whom Cliff would remain until Kong's death. Later hit singles included "King of Kings" and "Pride and Passion", which never sold well outside Jamaica. In 1964 (see 1964 in music), Cliff was chosen as one of the Jamaican representatives at the World's Fair, and Cliff soon signed to Island Records and moved to Britain. His international debut was Hard Road to Travel, which received excellent reviews and included "Waterfall", a Brazilian hit that won the International Song Festival.

"Waterfall" was followed by "Wonderful World, Beautiful People" and "Vietnam", both popular throughout most of the world. Folk rock singer/songwriter Bob Dylan even called "Vietnam" the best protest song he'd ever heard. Wonderful World included a cover of "Wild World" (Cat Stevens), which was a success in 1970 (see 1970 in music).

Leslie Kong died of a heart attack in 1971 (see 1971 in music). The soundtrack to The Harder They Come (a Reggae film that also starred Cliff) was a huge success that sold well across the world, but did not break Cliff into the mainstream. After a series of albums, Cliff took a break and traveled to Africa, exploring his newfound Muslim spirituality. He quickly returned to music, touring for several years before he recorded with Kool & the Gang for The Power (1983; see 1983 in music). (In the early '80s, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band added Cliff's little-known "Trapped" to their live set.) The follow-up, Cliff Hanger (1985; see 1985 in music) won a Grammy, though it was his last major success in the US until 1993 (see 1993 in music). He continued to sell well in Jamaica and, to a lesser extent, the UK, returning to the mainstream pop charts in the US and elsewhere with 1993's "I Can See Clearly Now" (from the soundtrack to Cool Runnings).

His most recent album is 2004's "Black Magic".