Jimmy Cliff

Jimmy Cliff

February 1, 2021 | Black History Month, Flow BLOG

Jimmy Cliff
Jimmy Cliff
Photo credit: Dick Polak

Jimmy Cliff was born on April 1, 1948 as James Chambers in the Somerton District of St. James, Jamaica. 

His musical ability was evident at childhood, and he appeared at local shows and parish fairs. He moved to Kingston at the age of 14, and eventually became famous with his first hit, “Hurricane Hattie.”

In 1964, Cliff was selected as one of Jamaica’s representatives at the World’s Fair in New York. 

Cliff won the International Song Festival with “Waterfall” in 1968, and followed this success with “Wonderful World, Beautiful People” in 1969. That song was his international breakthrough. 

By the 1970s, Cliff was reggae’s first crossover star. He helped popularize reggae worldwide when he starred as the lead actor in the movie The Harder They Come. He played Ivan, a country boy trying to break into the Jamaican music industry. As Ivan, Cliff embodied the hopes, aspirations, and sounds of reggae. 

“I’ve always seen my role as one of like a shepherd,” Cliff said. “One who opens the gate.”

Cliff holds two Grammy Awards, one for Best Reggae Recording for Cliff Hanger in 1985, and Best Reggae Album for Rebirth in 2012. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010.


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