Monday, 18 February 2013

JIMMY CLIFF INTERVIEW: The reggae icon on Dr. Heather Little-White, touring the continents, and his next album

WORLD WONDER:It’s a Rebirth time,” says Cliff. Below: Signing autographs in Kingston.

Beloved Jamaican icons Jimmy Cliff and the late Dr. Heather Little-White have quite a few things in common, not least among them childhood roots in Somerton, St. James. “My very personal memory of her would have to include the consciousness she always had about her roots,” Cliff informed TALLAWAH shortly after attending Saturday’s thanksgiving service for Little-White at Jamaica College. “The love that she always had about her roots, I remember that very, very clearly.” 

In spite of his hectic overseas itinerary these days, Cliff said it was absolutely imperative that he fly into the island to pay his final respects to a woman whose family helped engender a passion for music in him from a young age. To wit, Dr. Little-White’s mother, Rebecca, taught Cliff (born James Chambers) piano lessons while growing up. Fast-forward nearly six decades later and Jimmy Cliff is an international reggae and big-screen sensation thanks in large part to The Harder They Come and its classic soundtrack, which spawned such noteworthy hits as the poignant title track. 

To this day, the accolades keep rolling in, as Cliff very recently earned his second Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album. “The Grammy, I didn’t go to pick it up. I was unable to make it,” he says. “And I didn’t get to watch it either, but I heard that the Marleys did very well on the show. I’m truly grateful for another award.” 

The legendary entertainer is giving thanks, too, for his musical involvement in the recent worldwide phenom that was Volkswagen’s Super Bowl Game Day commercial. “The VW ad for me was special because the first car I ever bought was a VW,” he recalls, “and the Super Bowl is such a big event. So it felt good to be a part of that.” 

Jimmy Cliff says touring the continents and connecting with admirers of his music from all walks hasn’t lost its appeal for him. As a matter of fact, his latest concert series is well into the final planning stages. “It’s all coming together. [The tour will be] in Asia and Europe,” Cliff says. “First Asia for about a month, and then Europe for another month. Maybe the US, as well, but I’m not yet sure.” 

Any parting words for TALLAWAH readers? “Blessed love to everyone and pick up the new CD. It’s a Rebirth time.” What will be the focus of your next album? “I’ve already started working on [it], and it’s the soundtrack to a new movie.”

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