ACL Fest 2014 Interviews

2:15pm, Honda stage

ACL Fest 2014 Interviews

Jimmy Cliff

Jamaican vocal great Jimmy Cliff remains a global master of translating triumph into song. Signature compositions "You Can Get It If You Really Want" and "Many Rivers to Cross" summon inner strength to overcome struggles both social and personal.

"It's a seed planted in me by my family, this positive way of looking at life," says the 66-year-old, whose buoyant tenor sounds as powerful today as it did on his first single 52 years ago. "Although we had an economically poor upbringing, we were spiritually and intellectually quite rich.

"I want my performances to be vibrant and uplifting," he continues. "A year after my concert, I hope people say, 'Wow! I still feel energized by that performance. I feel like I can go to work today. I want to live!'"

Cliff's deep catalog stacks hourlong festival sets with just such indelible potential: his canonized The Harder They Come standards, which includes the oppressor-crushing title track and the meditative "Sitting in Limbo," as well as charting covers of "Wild World" and "I Can See Clearly Now," plus singles like "Wonderful World Beautiful People" and "Vietnam." The latter's updated its refrain on another war-torn country.

"I saw that Afghanistan was turning out to be another Vietnam, so that's just highlighting what happened then for it not to happen again," he explains.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, whose musical footprint treads through ska, rocksteady, and reggae, chuckles at the notion that he's Jamaican music's greatest living ambassador.

"Well, it's good these days that they're calling me that kind of name because in my career I've been called many worse names," he laughs. "I am the innovative one of Jamaica's music scene, the one who has never stayed where they think I belong."

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Jimmy Cliff
SXSW 2012 Records
Jimmy Cliff
Scared Fire EP (Record Review)

Jay Trachtenberg, March 16, 2012

Live Shots
Jimmy Cliff
SXSW Showcase Reviews

Thomas Fawcett, March 16, 2012

More by Kevin Curtin
Austin Psych Fest Turns Back the Clock: Toro Y Moi, Cuco, and Levitation Favorites Headline Spring Gathering
Austin Psych Fest Turns Back the Clock: Toro Y Moi, Cuco, and Levitation Favorites Headline Spring Gathering
Yves Tumor, Mdou Moctar, Melody’s Echo Chamber also psychin'

Jan. 26, 2023

Crucial Concerts for the Coming Week
Crucial Concerts for the Coming Week
Eddie Taylor's 100th birthday, Dry Cleaning, and Terry Allen highlight our recommended shows

Jan. 27, 2023


Jimmy Cliff, ACL Fest 2014

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle