he is one of only two living musicians to hold the Order of Merit, the highest honour that can be granted by the Jamaican government for achievements in the arts and sciences.
Cliff is best known among mainstream audiences for songs such as “Wonderful World, Beautiful People”, “Many Rivers to Cross”, “You Can Get It If You Really Want”, “The Harder They Come”, “Reggae Night”, and “Hakuna Matata”, and his covers of Cat Stevens’s “Wild World” and Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now” from the film Cool Runnings. He starred in the film The Harder They Come, which helped popularize reggae across the world,and Club Paradise. Cliff was one of five performers inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010.
Jimmy Cliff was born in Somerton District, Saint James, Jamaica.He began writing songs while still at primary school in St. James, listening to a neighbour’s sound system. In 1962 his father took him to Kingston to go to Kingston Technical school, where he ended up sharing his cousin’s one rented room in East Kingston.
Cliff sought out many producers while still going to school, trying to get his songs recorded without success. He also entered talent contests. “One night I was walking past a record store and restaurant as they were closing, pushed myself in and convinced one of them, Leslie Kong, to go into the recording business, starting with me,” he writes in his own website biography.After two singles that failed to make much impression, his career took off when “Hurricane Hattie” became a hit, while he was aged 14. It was produced by Kong, with whom Cliff remained until Kong’s death from a heart attack in 1971.
Cliff’s later local hit singles included “King of Kings”, “Dearest Beverley”, “Miss Jamaica”, and “Pride and Passion”. In 1964, Cliff was chosen as one of Jamaica’s representatives at the world’s fair; and in the same year Cliff was featured in a program called “This is Ska!” alongside Prince Buster, Toots and the Maytals, and Byron Lee and the Dragonaires. He soon signed to Island Records and moved to the United Kingdom. Island Records initially (and unsuccessfully) tried to sell Cliff to the rock audience, but his career took off in the late 1960s. His international debut album was Hard Road to Travel, released in 1967. It received excellent reviews and included “Waterfall” (composed by Nirvana’s Alex Spyropoulos and Patrick Campbell-Lyons), which became a hit in Brazil and won the International Song Festival.
“Waterfall” was followed in 1969 by “Wonderful World, Beautiful People” and “Vietnam” in 1970, both popular throughout most of the world. Bob Dylan called “Vietnam” the best protest song he had ever heard. Also during this period, Cliff released a coverof Cat Stevens’ “Wild World” as a single, but it was not included on his Wonderful World, Beautiful People album.
In 1972, Cliff starred as Ivanhoe “Ivan” Martin in the classic reggae film, The Harder They Come, directed by Perry Henzell.As the film tells Martin’s story, he is a young man without funds. Arriving in Kingston from the country, he tries to make it in the recording business, but without success. Eventually, he turns to a life of crime. The soundtrack album of the film was a huge success that sold well across the world, bringing reggae to an international audience for the first time. It remains one of the most internationally significant films to have come out of Jamaica since independence. The film made its debut at London’s Gaumontcinema in Notting Hill on 1 September 1972. In 1975, Cliff sang on the first season of Saturday Night Live, episode 12, hosted by Dick Cavett. After a series of albums, Cliff took a break and traveled to Africa (the Nigeria-based Jamaican writer Lindsay Barrett was instrumental in Cliff’s first trip there), and subsequently converted to Islam, taking the new name: El Hadj Naïm Bachir.Cliff is not a member of the Rastafari movement, although he briefly was before converting to Islam from Christianity. He now describes himself as having a “universal outlook on life”, and does not align himself with any particular movement or religion, saying that “now I believe in science”.  He is married and has a daughter Lilty Cliff and a son Aken Cliff. He is also the father of the actress/singer Nabiyah Be.
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