Interview: Jimmy Cliff

May 12, 2013

2012 was a bumper year for Jimmy Cliff. He emerged from the critical wilderness with the release of Rebirth, his first album in almost a decade, to widespread acclaim. Recapturing the frenetic style of his early 70s albums for Leslie Kong, and produced by Tim Armstrong of the punk group Rancid, Rebirth won a Best Reggae Grammy, was named as Rolling Stone magazine’s 12th best album of the year and just scooped an International Reggae World Music Award.

But Jimmy is not dwelling on that. He has plenty planned for the summer of 2013. He’s announced a UK and European tour starting in June and there is word of a radio session acoustic album on the horizon. Although when Reggaeville called up Jimmy to talk it over, the news had yet to reach the man himself!

Rebirth won multiple awards. What do you think of awards for music in general? Are they important?
I called the album Rebirth and from the evidence of all that is happening, it is a Rebirth. I did obviously foresee that I was ready to be reborn, and it is a good feeling. The greatest award for me is when the people embrace the work. So when a group of people get together and say “We are going to award you for so and so” it’s acceptable for me. But when the people accept you it’s a bigger acceptance. And the people have responded very positively, even in Jamaica, so that is good.

Recently on your Twitter you asked your fans what they thought about artists re-recording their old classics. Do you plan to re-record your old classics on your next album?
People have always been saying to me “Why don’t you make an album in such and such a way” so that is why I asked. I have to really feel like the fans really want it before I do it because I am really not one to go backward. I really prefer to go forward. Having said that, with this last album I went backwards to the roots of the music with the sound. But it’s not something that I relish doing. I’m working on so many things right now that I have enough material for maybe two albums. I don’t know at this point in time what direction I’m going to take. I just really want it to be fresh and different from this last one.

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