Jimmy Cliff... Reggae Ambassador-the last surviving icon of reggae music, has earned his Musical Innovator, Singer/ Songwriter, Actor titles over an illustrious career in the 20th Century and into the 21st.
Born in St. James, Jamaica, the young man who wanted to simply express himself through music and acting has gone on to influence an eclectic mix of artists from Bruce Springsteen, Jimmy and Paul Simon, to the Clash and Sublime.
As a rambunctious teenager in Kingston, Jamaica, Cliff brazenly walked into the local ice cream parlor/ record shop and sang an acappella tune he had written called "Dearest Beverly."
The aspiring record producer/ owner of the shop, Leslie Kong was immediately impressed. He paid for the 14 year old Cliff to record it, along with his first hit, "Hurricane Hattie."
While at Federal Studios to record "Miss Jamaica" (a song written to capitalize on the excitement surrounding the newly-crowned beauty queen), Cliff met Robert Nesta Marley, whom Cliff helped to record his first tune, "Judge blot." Over the course of the next few years these two current day icons helped to create modern reggae music.
"Today's reggae music has gone through many formulations," Cliff muses. "Originally known as Ska, it has evolved to 'rock steady' to modern reggae, in it's different forms."
After conquering his Jamaican homeland, Cliff went on to conquer England, Africa, Europe and Brazil at the invitation of Island Records founder Chris Blackwell.
That collaboration brought us Cliff's hits 'Wonderful World Beautiful People, Vietnam, and Wild Wild World". He also wrote and produced hits "You Can Get it if You Really Want," for Desmond Decker and "Let your Yea Be Yea" for the Pioneers.
Cliff's introduction to U.S. listeners came as a result of his critically acclaimed role as a gun toting, drug selling 'rude boy" in the 1970s cult classic, "The Harder They Come."
His performance garnered him rave reviews and forever established his place at the forefront of the reggae movement.
The film also introduced the world to the classic reggae anthems "You Can get it if you Really Want and Many Rivers to Cross."
Music would never be the same again.
Cliff extended his acting career co-starring with Robin Williams and Peter O'Toole in "Club Paradise," and in "Marked For Death" with Stephen Segal.
Cliff has been working on the sequel to his breakout film, "The Harder They Come 2." "I've completed the outline, and the original writer, Percy Henzel, is now working on the script, which will be completed by September," Cliff explains. "We should begin filming early next year in Jamaica and the U.S."
He is also writing for the soundtrack, which will include all new music.
Known for his easy, pop-friendly reggae style as well as harder-edged tunes with social and political lyrics and earnest voice, Jimmy Cliff has put his signature sound on some familiar hits.
Cliff's cover of Johnny Nash's "I Can See Clearly Now," which was featured in the movie "Cool Runnings," was a huge radio hit, and exposed him to a new and younger generation.
Other recent musical projects include "The Lion King," where Cliff appeared alongside Elton John on the film's soundtrack.
His constant message of brotherhood and peace for the world are both heartfelt and genuine without pontificating.
Jimmy's album 'Humanitarian' is about bringing out the better side of humanity, which going in this new millennium, is really going to be a necessity," explains Cliff. "The album talks about family, empowering yourself as an individual and rising up to achieve your goals, whether spiritual or material."
"The album is called 'Humanitarian' because that's what I am-as an artist and a musician on a terrestrial level."
From decade to decade and 22 albums later, Jimmy Cliff is still drawing capacity crowds of all ages.
In December, 1999 Cliff gave a heartfelt rendition of "No Woman No Cry" with Erika Badu at