Jimmy Cliff, Shepherd of Reggae Music: NPR
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This week, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame got a little more crowded.
Monday night marked the Hall’s 25th annual induction ceremony. In the class of five: The Stooges, the Hollies, ABBA, Genesis and reggae star Jimmy Cliff.
Cliff is the second reggae artist, after Bob Marley, to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But he actually preceded Marley in bringing reggae to the international stage, appearing and performing his songs for the 1972 film. The more they come. He has also enjoyed a long and successful career in music, with a tremendous string of high-profile albums and collaborations under his belt.
Host Michele Norris spoke with Jimmy Cliff about the honor and his early path to reggae. He said his first experiences with music came through churches.
“There was a lot of church music going around – all kinds of churches,” he said. “Churches that we call Pocomania, which is like the original African church where they just play drums and sing and that kind of stuff. So there was all kinds of music around me growing up.”
Cliff says he first heard rock ‘n’ roll music through a friend, who relayed information about new songs through his radio. And then his father also had a radio.
“Well, my dad wanted me to get an education – maybe to be a doctor, or one of those professions that seems safe,” he says. “So while I was taking higher courses – when I was about to take them – he said, ‘Now what would you prefer: higher courses, we have to pay for them? Or spend the money to buy a radio? I said, ‘Buy the radio!’ “
Cliff has spoken of growing up “economically poor, spiritually rich”, its impact on his music, and being seen as an ambassador for reggae.
Jimmy Cliff: The Original Bob Marley