Talking With Jimmy Cliff, Shepherd of Reggae Music

The United States National Public Radio (NPR) has broadcast an interview with Jamaican reggae artist Jimmy Cliff in the wake of his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. (You can listen to the program through the link below. Cliff is the second reggae artist, after Bob Marley, to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But he actually preceded Marley in bringing reggae to the international stage, appearing in and performing his songs for the 1972 film The Harder They Come. He has also enjoyed a long and fruitful career in music, with a formidable string of albums and high-profile collaborations to his name.

Host Michele Norris spoke with Jimmy Cliff about the honor, and about his early path to reggae. He said his first experiences with music came through churches. “There was a lot of church music around — all different kinds of churches,” he said. “Churches that we call Pocomania, which is like the original African church where they just play drums and chant and that kind of thing. So there was all kind of music around me growing up.” Cliff says he first heard rock ‘n’ roll music through a friend, who relayed information about new songs through his radio. And then his father got a radio, too. “Well, my father wanted me to be educated — maybe be doctor, or one of those professions that seems safe,” he says. “So while I was taking higher lessons — while I was about to take it — he said, ‘Now, which would you prefer: the higher lessons, we have to pay for it? Or spend the money to buy a radio?’ I said, ‘Buy the radio!’ ”

Cliff spoke on growing up “economically poor, spiritually rich,” its impact on his music, and being seen as an ambassador of reggae.

For the audio of the program go to

Photo of Cliff by Pascal Guyot/AFP/Getty Images

One thought on “Talking With Jimmy Cliff, Shepherd of Reggae Music

  1. Jimmy Cliff no doubt is the greatest and most prolific reggae musician, he is a world class musician that is second to none,he is an asset to the black racehe should be ranked and place in the same bracket with with late Miriam Makeba(Mma Africa).God bless Jimmy Cliff

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