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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction 2010: Jimmy Cliff Speaks

When Jimmy Cliff was 14 years old, a teenager approached him in a Kingston bar and asked Cliff to listen to his music.
That stranger turned out to be Bob Marley, who went on to become a reggae legend and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. Tonight, reggae superstar Cliff will join him in the Rock Hall of Fame in a ceremony to be held in New York City. (Speakeasy will be live-blogging the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction ceremony starting at 8 p.m. ET with Cliff, Genesis, ABBA and more.)
When he was still a teenager in the early 1960s, Cliff got a job scouting new talent for Leslie Kong, a Jamaican record producer. Cliff and Derrick Morgan, another singer and scout, would often hold court in a bar, asking would-be musicians who came in to audition on the spot.
“I think the proper title for what I was doing would be called today A&R–artists and repertoire,” Cliff said.
One day, Cliff was in the bar, playing piano to himself and trying out some new material he had written. A voice behind him said “That sound good y’know.”
“I looked around and I saw this person, a little shorter than me, and the impression I got from him was that he was very determined and forceful,” Cliff said. “He said he had the songs, so I said sing them.”

Marley sang five songs and Cliff played piano, and Morgan and Cliff picked three of them. Marley then recorded a trio of songs in February 1962 — “Judge Not,” “One Cup of Coffee,” and “Terror” — launching his career as a musician.
Cliff says that reggae has changed since “The Harder They Come,” the 1972 movie that won him a global audience. He played the starring role in the reggae-fueled film, which was directed by Perry Henzell, and he wrote several hits for the soundtrack including the title track and “Many Rivers to Cross.”
“We still have people like myself who are committed to roots and culture, social statements, spiritual uplift,” Cliff said. “And then you have the other branch, which I call girls and cars and superstars.”
Cliff says he’s not surprised that both he and Marley have ended up in the Hall of Fame. He says he changed his name from James Chambers to Jimmy Cliff because he was always aiming high. “I thought of Mt. Everest and Kilimanjaro,” Cliff said. “I am truly not surprised because I set my heights like that.”


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