PREVIEW: Jimmy Cliff @ Birmingham Ballroom, May 20th

Jimmy Cliff, born James Chambers, is one of the most internationally recognised faces of Reggae.

Growing up in St James, Jamaica – Jimmy Cliff moved to Kingston in 1962; to attend the city’s technical college and attempt a career in music.

Whilst still studying, Cliff touted his songs to the various producers and labels in the island’s grass roots music industry, with no one paying the young artist much heed.

Then, after a sporadic audition in Beverly’s Ice Cream Parlour & Record Shop, local entrepreneur, Leslie Kong, was persuaded to expand his existing music business into a record label; signing Jimmy Cliff as its first artist. The label ‘Beverly’s’ was born, releasing Jimmy Cliff‘s first fleet of singles; including ‘King of Kings’, ‘Miss Jamaica’ and ‘Hurricane Hattie’ – Cliff’s first chart success.

‘Beverly’s’ also recorded other Jamaican artists including; Desmond Dekker, Toots & the Maytals and Peter Tosh. It was also the first label to record and release music by Bob Marley.

After representing Jamaica in the 1964 World’s Fair, Jimmy Cliff signed to Island Records; Chris Blackwell’s independent UK label specialising in Reggae and Ska.

Moving to the UK, Jimmy Cliff worked on his debut album – ‘Hard Road to Travel’, winning further international acclaim. But the release of his eponymous second album in 1969, introduced tracks such as ‘Many Rivers To Cross’, ‘Wonderful World, Beautiful People’ and ‘Vietnam’ to a growing global Reggae fan base.

Then in 1972, Jimmy Cliff starred as Ivan Martin in ‘The Harder They Come’;  Perry Henzell’s film about a young man trying to make it in the cut throat Jamaican record industry before turning to crime.

‘The Harder They Come’, alongside its soundtrack featuring many other Jamaican artists, received international acclaim; further promulgating Jamaica’s Reggae and Ska scenes around the world.

Jimmy Cliff was awarded Jamaica’s Order of Merit in 2003; the third highest honour the island can give. He remains the only musician in history to receive the award. Cliff was also inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2010.

In a career spanning over 50 years, Jimmy Cliff has released 29 albums; with his latest – ‘Sacred Fire’, out in late 2011.

Jimmy Cliff plays the Birmingham Ballroom on May 20th. For further details on this, and other gigs at the venue, visit http://www.birmingham-ballroom.com

For more information of Jimmy Cliff, visit http://www.jimmycliff.com

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