Jimmy Cliff OM (born James Chambers, 1 April 1948, Somerton District, St. James, Jamaica) is a Jamaican ska and reggae singer, musician and actor. He is the only currently living musician to hold the Order of Merit, the highest possible honour that can be granted by the Jamaican government for achievement in the arts and sciences. He is best known among mainstream audiences for songs such as "Sittin' in Limbo", "You Can Get It If You Really Want", "Many Rivers to Cross" from the soundtrack to The Harder They Come which helped popularize reggae across the world; his cover of Cat Stevens' "Wild World" and Johnny Nash's "I Can See Clearly Now" from the film, Cool Runnings. Outside of the reggae world, he is probably best known for his film appearance in The Harder They Come. Even after a string of hits, the singer has never quite managed to achieve mainstream acceptance, although in the late 1960s and early 1970s, he seemed poised for international stardom.
 Early career
Cliff moved to Kingston in 1962. After two singles that failed to make much impression, his career took off after his "Hurricane Hattie" became a hit, while he was aged 14. It was produced by Leslie Kong, with whom Cliff would remain until Kong's death, of 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 the Jamaican representatives at the World's FairIsland Records and moved to the UK. 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, which received excellent reviews and included "Waterfall" (composed by Nirvana's Alex Spyropoulos and Patrick Campbell-Lyons), a Brazilian hit that won the International Song Festival. and Cliff soon signed to
"Waterfall" was followed in 1969 by "Wonderful World, Beautiful People" and "Vietnam" in 1970, both popular throughout most of the world. Folk rocksinger-songwriter Bob Dylan called "Vietnam" the best protest song he had ever heard. Also during this period, Cliff released a cover of Cat Stevens' "Wild World" as a single, but it was not included on his Wonderful World, Beautiful People album.
 The Harder They Come
In 1972, Cliff starred in the (Perry Henzell directed) classic reggae film, The Harder They Come, which tells the story of Ivan Martin, a young man without funds who arrives in Kingston from the country, tries to make it in the recording business and finally dies on the beach in a shoot-out with cops. The sountrack album of the film was a huge success that sold well across the world, but did not quite make of Cliff a mainstream star. It remains the most significant film to have come out of Jamaica since independence. The film made its debut at London's Notting Hill Gaumont cinema on 1 September 1972. After a series of albums, Cliff took a break and traveled to Africa, exploring his newfound Muslimmusic, touring for several years before he recorded with Kool & the Gang for The Power and the Glory (1983). In 1984 Cliff appeared at the Pinkpop Festival in Landgraaf, in the Netherlands. spirituality. (He subsequently renounced any formal religious belief.) He quickly returned to
During the 1981 River Tour, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band added Cliff's little-known song "Trapped" to their live set; it achieved great prominence when included on 1985's We Are the World benefit album). The follow-up, Cliff HangerGrammy Award for 'Best Reggae Album', though it was his last major success in the U.S. until 1993. Also in 1985 Cliff contributed to the song "Sun City", a protest song written by Steven Van Zandt and recorded by Artists United Against Apartheid to convey opposition to the South African policy of apartheid. Cliff then provided backing vocals on The Rolling Stones' 1986 album, Dirty Work. (1985) won a
In 1991 Cliff appeared at the second Rock in Rio festival in the Estádio do Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He continued to sell well in Jamaica and, to a lesser extent, the UK, returning to the mainstream pop charts in the U.S. and elsewhere (#1 in France) with a version of Johnny Nash's "I Can See Clearly Now" on the Cool Runnings film soundtrack in 1993. In 1995 Cliff released the single "Hakuna Matata" (a collaboration with Lebo M), a song from the soundtrack of the film The Lion King,
In 2002, Cliff released the album, Fantastic Plastic People in Europe, after first providing free downloads using p2p software. This album featured collaborations with Joe Strummer, Annie Lennox, and Sting as well as new songs that were very reminiscent of Cliff's original hits. In 2004 Cliff completely reworked the songs, dropping the traditional reggae in favour of an electronica sound, for inclusion in Black Magic. He also performed at the closing ceremony to the 2002 Commonwealth Games. In 2003 his song "You Can Get It If You Really Want" was included in the soundtrack to the film, Something's Gotta Give. Cliff appeared in July 2003 at the Paléo Festival in Nyon, Switzerland.
 Order of Merit
The government of Jamaica honoured Cliff on 20 October, 2003, by awarding him The Order of Merit, the nation's third-highest honour, in recognition of his contributions to the film and music of Jamaica. He and Rex Nettleford are the only two living cultural figures to hold this distinction.
Cliff was also an inaugural member of the Independent Music Awards' judging panel to support independent artists.  More recently, Cliff appeared on the Jazz World Stage at the Glastonbury Festival in 2008.
Cliff has also covered The Tokens' song, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight". Some of his albums were distributed by Craze Productions. Cliff name checked the Welshprivateer, Henry Morgan, in his song "Oh, Jamaica". "Many Rivers to Cross" was mentioned in the dialogue in the film, High Fidelity. Joe Strummer recorded "Over The Border" with Cliff on the latter's album, Black Magic. In 2007 Cliff performed at the opening ceremony at Cricket's World Cup. His song "Many Rivers to Cross" references the White cliffs of Dover.
Cliff's recording of "You Can Get It If You Really Want" was used as a campaignanthem by the Sandinista National Liberation Front in the 1990 election in Nicaragua. It was also adopted by the British Conservative Party during their annual conference in October 2007. It is unclear whether Cliff endorsed either political party.
 Acting career
In addition to providing the music for The Harder They Come, Cliff also had the film's starring role as the struggling reggae singer, Ivanhoe "Ivan" Martin.
Cliff also appeared as the Jamaican musician and revolutionary, Ernest Reed, in the 1986 comedy Club Paradise, co-starring with Robin Williams and Peter O'Toole, and contributed several songs to the soundtrack, including "Seven Day Weekend", which he sang with Elvis Costello.
 Cover versions of Jimmy Cliff songs
- "The Harder They Come"
Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones recorded "The Harder They Come" as a b-side to his single featuring "Run, Rudolph, Run", written by Chuck Berry, in 1978. "The Harder They Come" has been covered by Madness (1992), Joe Jackson, Cher (1975), Rancid, Willie Nelson, Joe Strummer, Jerry Garcia Band, Desmond Dekker, Me First & The Gimme Gimmes, Poison Idea, Kahimi Karie, moe. State Radio and Guster. Pat MacDonald also covered "The Harder They Come" on Bridging the Distance: a Portland, OR covers compilation released in 2007 (Arena Rock Recording Co.)
- "Many Rivers to Cross"
The song "Many Rivers to Cross" was covered in 1982 by Joe Cocker on his album, Sheffield Steel with the Compass Point All Stars. This song was also recorded by The Animals in their 1982 reunition album Ark, and by Arthur Lee on his 1981 soloArthur Lee. "Many Rivers to Cross" was also covered in 1974 by Harry Nilsson, on his album Pussy Cats, which was produced by John Lennon. Nilsson's version of "Many Rivers to Cross" was itself covered by The Walkmen on their track-by-track cover of Nilsson's Pussy Cats, released in 2006. "Many Rivers to Cross" was also successfully covered by the British reggae act UB40, gaining a Top 20 spot in the UK Singles Chart in 1983. "Many Rivers to Cross" was remixed by Cafe del Mar DJs for the Cafe del Mar 9 compilation album. Oleta Adams is featured singing "Many Rivers to Cross" during the closing credits of the 1994 film, Jason's Lyric. Adams' cover is also featured on her 1996 album, The Very Best of Oleta Adams. Annie Lennox sang "Many Rivers to Cross" for American Idol's charity special Idol Gives Back in 2008. The performance was sold on iTunes, with proceeds going to the charity. In 2008 Lenny Kravitz covered "Many Rivers to Cross" on Clear Channel's Stripped Raw and Real. Linda Ronstadt covered "Many Rivers To Cross" on 1975's Prisoner in Disguise. album
- "Reggae Nights"
- "You Can Get It If You Really Want"
- "Sittin' In Limbo"
- "Going Back West"
- "Struggling Man"
- Hard Road to Travel (January 1968)
- Jimmy Cliff (December 1969)
- Wonderful World, Beautiful People (1970)
- Goodbye Yesterday (1970)
- Another Cycle (September 1971)
- The Harder They Come (1972)
- Unlimited (August 1973)
- Struggling Man (June 1974)
- House of Exile (December 1974)
- Brave Warrior (1975)
- Follow My Mind (November 1976)
- In Concert: The Best of Jimmy Cliff (1976)
- Give Thanx (1978)
- I Am The Living (July 1980)
- Give the People What They Want (September 1981, with the Compass Point All Stars)
- Special (July 1982)
- The Power and the Glory (October 1983)
- Cliff Hanger (August 1985)
- Club Paradise (1986)
- Hanging Fire (March 1988)
- Images (October 1989)
- Save Our Planet Earth (October 1990)
- Breakout (1992)
- Higher and Higher (May 1998)
- Journey of Lifetime (1998)
- Humanitarian (June 1999)
- Fantastic Plastic People (2002)
- Black Magic (2004)
- "Wonderful World, Beautiful People" - 1969 - Trojan Records - #6 UK
- "Vietnam" - 1970 - Trojan - #46 UK
- "Wild World" - 1970 - Island Records - #8 UK
- "I Can See Clearly Now" - 1993 - Columbia Records - #23 UK