40 Years After Starring In The Harder They Come, He’s Still Coming Hard

As Vivien Goldman observed in her excellent review of Jimmy Cliff’s recent unplugged set at Miss Lily’s Variety, for Mr. Cliff “every night is like a first night.” Standing three feet away from the 63-year-old living legend—watching him strum his guitar and feeling him nail every high note while perched on a bar stool with his cap to the back—was enough to make me forget half the live shows I’ve ever seen. Thankfully, LargeUpTV captured the moment for posterity, so you don’t need to be mad if you were unable to squeeze in there with the Miss Lily’s posse that night, or you somehow missed the live broadcast (including Pat McKay’s irie interview) on Sirius Satellite Radio.

Jimmy Cliff played a bunch of songs from his new EP that night, and they sounded good—but classics are called classics for a reason. Over the past four decades, his song “Many Rivers to Cross” has been covered by Martha Reeves, Joe Cocker, Linda Ronstadt, The Animals, Arthur Lee, Harry Nilsson and John Lennon, The Walkmen, UB40, Gov’t Mule, Steve Kimock, Oleta Adams, Annie Lennox, and Lenny Kravitz—to name a few. Coldplay bassist Guy Berryman has admitted that the band’s touching “Fix You” owes “a bit of inspiration” to the song (those organ chords are unmistakable). But once you’ve witnessed the man himself delivering the song in the flesh, you’ll forget about all those other versions. You never forget your first time. Come cross…

(Not for nothing—DJing this gig was an honor beyond words.)

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