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James Chambers OM, known professionally as Jimmy Cliff, is a Jamaican ska, rocksteady, reggae and soul musician, multi-instrumentalist, singer, and actor . 

He was born on July 30, 1944 in Saint James, Colony of Jamaica .

Cliff began writing songs while still at primary school in St. James, listening to a neighbour’s sound system. 

When Chambers was 14, his father took him to Kingston, where he would take up the stage name Jimmy Cliff .

Cliff sought out many producers while still going to school, trying to get his songs recorded without success. He also entered talent contests. “One night I was walking past a record store and restaurant as they were closing, pushed myself in and convinced one of them, Leslie Kong, to go into the recording business, starting with me,” he writes in his own website biography . After two singles that failed to make much impression, his career took off when “Hurricane Hattie” became a hit while he was aged 17. It was produced by Kong, with whom Cliff remained until Kong’s death from a heart attack in 1971. Cliff’s later local hit singles included “King of Kings”, “Dearest Beverley”, “Miss Jamaica”, and “Pride and Passion”.

In 1964, Cliff was chosen as one of Jamaica’s representatives at the World’s Fair in New York; and in the same year Cliff was featured in a program called “This is Ska!” alongside Prince Buster, Toots and the Maytals, and Byron Lee and the Dragonaires . He soon signed to Island Records and moved to the United Kingdom. Island Records initially (and unsuccessfully) tried to sell Cliff to the rock audience, but his career took off in the late 1960s. His international debut album was Hard Road to Travel, released in 1967. It received excellent reviews and included “Waterfall” (composed by Nirvana’s Alex Spyropoulos and Patrick Campbell-Lyons), which became a hit in Brazil and won the International Song Festival.

Cliff is best known among mainstream audiences for songs such as “Many Rivers to Cross”, “You Can Get It If You Really Want”, “The Harder They Come”, “Reggae Night”, and “Hakuna Matata”, and his covers of Cat Stevens’s “Wild World” and Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now” from the film Cool Runnings . 

He starred in the film The Harder They Come, which helped popularize reggae around the world, and Club Paradise. 

Cliff was one of five performers inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010.

All support and information from Getty Images and Googles

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