Jamaican Music

Jimmy Cliff Names His Five Favorite Albums in Rolling Stone Interview

Jimmy Cliff

Jimmy Cliff, Jamaican reggae legend and star of the iconic 1970s film “The Harder They Come,” named his five favorite reggae albums in an interview with Rolling stone magazine in which he also discussed the new-50-year anniversary of the film and its release on Blu-ray disc. “The Harder They Come” put Jamaican’s film industry and reggae music onto the international stage, and with its first-time release on Blu-ray is expected to bring a new audience to both. The film highlighted Jamaica’s reggae music scene and the so-called rude-boy culture of the 1970s on the island. According to Cliff, it was a landmark film because it was very real, as none the performers were professional actors, and the story could have applied to any one of them who had been born in Jamaica. The character played by Cliff was “trying to be himself and did not want to be subject to forces that worked to hold him back, said Cliff. His performance in the film brought him critical acclaim as an actor, but Cliff continued to focus on singing and songwriting over the years.

As one of the few Jamaican artists inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and as a major fan of reggae music, Cliff provided Rolling Stone with the names of his favorite reggae albums.

At the top of his list is “Never Grow Old” by The Maytals. Cliff notes that he “came in before” the name of the group was changed to “Toots and They Maytals” and ranks this debut album as “the beginning of reggae music.”

Second on his list is “Marcus Garvey” by Burning Spear, which he cites as one of the first reggae albums to reflect the genre’s growing emphasis on cultural and spiritual matters. This album focused on Garvey, one of Jamaica’s National Heroes, and the Rastafari culture.

The third album on Cliff’s list of favorites is “Heart of the Congos” by The Congos. This album is considered a reggae masterpiece, he said, and comes from the same era as the Burning Spear recording; it is one of dub producer’s Lee “Scratch” Perry’s “greatest showcases,” Cliff said.

Bob Marley’s “Legend” is also on Cliff’s list. He describes Marley as an artist that he “took into the business and became maybe the most phenomenal figure” in reggae music. Cliff often receives the credit for providing Bob Marley with his first break when he auditioned the singer in 1968/ Cliff did not cite a specific Marley album in the Rolling stone interview but instead chose the “best of” collection of the artist’s music.

And finally, Cliff chose the soundtrack from “The Harder They Come” as one of his five favorites, modestly placing it last on the list. The film’s soundtrack includes “some great songs,” he says, including some of his own. Featured on the soundtrack are Toots & The Maytals, Desmond Dekker and the Melodians. This album has been included on Rolling Stone’s 500 Great Albums of All Time listing as well.

Source: Rolling Stones Magazine 

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Stephanie Korney