Known as a consistent hitmaker, Jimmy Cliff (James Chambers) has been releasing classic hits since the 1960s. His world-famous songs include masterpieces, such as Waterfall, many rivers to cross, the more they come and Sitting here in limbo.
His career began in 1954 when he was only 14 years old. He tried unsuccessfully to break into the Jamaican music industry, but it wasn’t until he convinced record owner Leslie Kong to take a chance with him that he had his first hit. With Kong’s help, he released the song Hurricane Hattie, which became a hit in Jamaica.
He continued to have success releasing singles like Pride and passion and Miss Jamaica influenced by pop and ska. Songs like these became popular in Jamaica, earning him the opportunity to represent Jamaica at the 1964 New York World’s Fair.
In 1965 Cliff moved to London in the UK. There he signed with Island Records and began to expand his musical style incorporating soul, rhythm and blues. In 1967, Difficult road to travel, his first record aimed at a global audience, has been released. It was well received and presented Cascade which won the 1968 International Song Festival in Brazil. Following his success with Cascadewere other smashes like Wonderful world, beautiful people and Vietnambecame popular around the world in 1969.
Perhaps one of the most defining moments of Cliff’s career was when he played Ivanhoe “Ivan” Martin in the reggae movie, The more they come in 1972. The film’s soundtrack disc was a major platform that catapulted Cliff into stardom on a larger scale. The soundtrack enjoyed strong sales worldwide and introduced reggae to a global audience for the first time. This was endorsed by Jamaica’s Minister for Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sports, Olivia Grange. Before honoring Cliff as a reggae icon, she recognized him as a “Musical pioneer, who took Jamaican music to the world.”
The Jamaican government has recognized Cliff as a loyal contributor to Jamaica’s global musical influence. He was awarded the Order of Merit in 2003. It is the highest honor the Jamaican government can bestow for achievement in the arts and sciences, and he is the only living musician to have received it.
Internationally, Cliff has received several accolades. It is seven times nominated for the Grammy Awards and won the award for best reggae album, Renaissancein 2013 and in 1986 for Best Reggae Recording, thriller. On March 15, 2010, he was officially inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Unsurprisingly, Cliff continues to make music. His latest single, The human touch was released a year ago on Jamaica’s Independence Day, August 6th. Cliff commenting on the significance of the release date on his website said: “It’s an important date and I also wanted to have a thought for my sacred land.”