There have been few such songs while war rages in Iraq, a fact not lost on Cliff, who will perform tonight at Sayreville’s Starland Ballroom.
“The times seem lighter and frivolous,” said Cliff. “Things are more pushed forward due to the information age. Like what’s happening in Iraq and Jerusalem, they don’t seem to have the importance needed to be put into song.”
Reggae would not have been the same had it not been for Cliff. Born 1948 as James Chambers in St. Catherine, Jamaica, Cliff was a childhood success who entered the studio at 14.
Cliff’s ascendancy was so rapid that he was selected as one of Jamaica’s representatives to the World’s Fair in New York City in 1964. Cliff’s international stardom was sealed when he appeared in the 1971 movie “The Harder They Come” and contributed to the soundtrack. In the film, Cliff plays an up-and-coming hard-knock singer who’s jailed for getting into a knife fight, then makes his way by selling pot.
“Definitely that movie had a big impact on the world,” Cliff said. “It’s the ultimate outlaw movie of the last 30 years.”
Cliff has been something of an outlaw in the music world, existing on the periphery of the business for the last several decades despite his legend status.
His most recent album was 2004’s “Black Magic,” which featured duets with such notables as ex-Police leader Sting and the late Joe Strummer of The Clash.
Cliff still speaks about Strummer in the present tense.
“Joe is a rebel like myself,” added Cliff. “He’s one who’s always rebelling against things he sees that are not right in society. On the other hand, he’s very bright and an excellent lyricist who’s very aware what goes on in this society.”
Published in the Asbury Park Press 03/31/05
By CHRIS JORDAN GANNETT NEW JERSEY