Born: 1948 in St. Catherine, Jamaica
Years Active: 60 's, 70 's, 80 's, 90 's, 00's
It's one of life's great ironies that today, outside of reggae circles, Jimmy Cliff is better known for his film appearances than his music. Even after a string of hits, the singer never quite managed to break into the mainstream, although in the late '60s/early '70s, he seemed poised for international stardom. The singer was born in St. Catherine, Jamaica, on April 1, 1948, with the less prosaic name James Chambers. His talent was obvious from childhood, and he began his career appearing at local shows and parish fairs. At 14, he felt ready for the big time, moved to Kingston, and took the surname Cliff to express the heights he intended on reaching. Cliff recorded two unsuccessful singles before he was spotted by Derrick Morgan, who brought him to Leslie Kong. His first single for the budding producer, "Hurricane Hattie," was an instant hit. Unusually, Cliff remained with Kong until the producer's death; most Jamaican artists flit from studio to studio. The singer's loyalty was rewarded, however, as the hits just kept coming. In the early years, the pair helped set the ska scene alight, both in Jamaica and in Britain, where the singer's singles were picked up by Island Records. "Miss Jamaica," "King of Kings," "One Eyed Jacks," and "Pride and Passion" were all classics from the ska...