In Honor of Jimmy Cliff’s 70th Birthday Author David Katz Drops Knowledge on the Reggae Legend

David Katz is no stranger to the world of reggae and documenting it. In 2006, he got hold of Lee “Scratch” Perry and released the widely-received biography People Funny Boy: The Genius of Lee ‘”Scratch” Perry. He then got the story of icon, Jimmy Cliff to pen Jimmy Cliff: An Unauthorized Biography. Though Cliff was not heavily involved in its production, Katz relied on his previous interviews with the star and stories from artists who collaborated with him to bring forth the biography. In his travels and through countless reasonings, he gathered some interesting (and previously unknown) tidbits about JC. Scroll Through Gallery Above…

Jimmy Cliff “Sitting In Limbo”

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Jimmy Cliff's Correct Birth Date

Jimmy Cliff was born in July 1944. The widely circulated birth date of April 1948 is incorrect.

Supremely Humble Beginnings

Jimmy was raised in a very simple dwelling, with a dirt floor. He was not even aware that the dirt floor was unusual, until he was sent to live for a time with an aunt.

His Great Great Grandmother Endured Slavery

Jimmy’s grandmother told him about the slavery her own grandmother was born into. She also recognized his creative talents at an early age.

Studied Electronics Before Music

Jimmy was sent to Kingston as a teenager to study radio and television electronics, but abandoned his studies to pursue music.

Worked With Heavyweights After His Move To London

After moving to London in 1966 at the request of Island Records’ founder, Chris Blackwell, Jimmy rubbed shoulders with Jimi Hendrix, Pete Townsend and Joe Cocker, and was backed by future members of Fairport Convention and Mott the Hooper while trying to make it as a soul singer.

Knows World Music

Jimmy was a true pioneer of world music, having recorded bossa nova in Brazil in the late 1960s, touring Africa with African musicians in the late 1970s, and sharing the stage with Gilberto Gil in 1980. He also collaborated with Congolese musicians in Brazzaville in the mid-1980s, as well as a Cameroonian artist in Cameroon. He has also worked with the great Brazilian acts Olodum and Cidade Negra, as well as Kool and the Gang, among others.

Had Friends and Supporters Near and Far

Jimmy toured widely with Peter Tosh, counted Fela Kuti among his friends, and had poetry written about him by Dr. Kenneth Kuanda, then President of Zambia.

Influenced Career Paths of Others

Jimmy was the catalyst that convinced Leslie Kong to become a record producer and found Beverley’s Records, and was partly responsible for Bob Marley’s debut recording session.

Followed Various World Faiths

Jimmy first encountered the Nation of Islam in 1964, when he traveled to New York to appear at the World’s Fair. He later joined the organization, but ultimately embraced more traditional forms of Islam, as well as Rastafari and various other world faiths.

Takes Giving Back Seriously

Jimmy Cliff has been a great humanitarian, offering financial and logistical support to a wide range of charitable causes, including Ethiopian famine relief in 1984, after Hurricane Gilbert struck Jamaica in 1987, as well as for the Telefood 99 project, South Africa’s 46664, and the National Council of Ghanaian Associations, as well as numerous other projects throughout Jamaica and the world.