Interview: Jimmy Cliff – Rebirth

July 18, 2012

Here is the full length interview with Jimmy that was previously published in edited form in Festiville mag…


The first legend of music Reggaeville encounters when entering the West End’s plush epicurean Sanctum Hotel to interview Jimmy Cliff is not Jimmy himself but a large gaudy stain glass panel depicting Jimmy Hendrix. A fortuitous meeting, as Jimmy and Jimi became friends in the mid sixties while they were both strangers abroad trying to shop their then unknown music in the cold ramparts of the United Kingdom.
Now Jimmy is back in his former home to promote his new album Rebirth, produced by Tim Armstrong of the punk group Rancid, the follow-up to their sacred fire taster EP which was released last year to critical acclaim. The love fans feel for Cliff, the man who took Reggae international for a whole generation through his music and the film The Harder They Come, has never dimmed yet critical acclaim has been a fair weather friend due to his restless, experimental nature and his eclecticism (whereas Bob Marley, the youth he helped get a start at Leslie Kong’s Beverley’s Records, was always, whether philosophically or in marketing terms, a consistent brand).

Today, with his album, which revisits the Kong era via Armstrong, and his band’s passion for pre Roots Reggae, and with the 50th anniversary of both Jamaican independence and Jimmy’s debut studio session, it feels like everything has come full circle. We find Jimmy sitting at the Sanctum’s wood panelled restaurant, dressed in a red string sweater wearing glasses with red rims. He orders a coffee and a sparkling water with no ice and we begin…

How does it feel to be back in London where you lived during the late sixties?
In one way it’s like coming home. Because when you spend a good deal of time of your life in a particular place you’ve planted roots which can’t just be uprooted. You have to come back and look at the places you used to know and say “Oh that’s changed! That’s still the same! Have they got that there now? OK!” So you just familiarize yourself again and it’s like my second home. It’s changed a lot. If you take certain parts like say Kensal Rise and all those areas where the markets are. There never used to be all the markets! Notting Hill Gate has changed a lot in terms of people, in terms of housing, architecture but the energy is the same.

Read more…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *