Come Do The Reggae With Jimmy Cliff!

Hello, everyone! Welcome to another post on The Ballroom Blitz.

Today I would like to share with you an article taken from the Fabulous 208 magazine – December 1969. The cover of the magazine is quite popular I think: Jimmy Cliff with two skinhead girls, Don Powell (drummer of Slade) and Jim Lea (bass player of Slade). You will also learn ‘to do the Reggae’ following some simple instructions.


If you don’t know the difference between Ska and Reggae, or if you weren’t even aware of the new Jamaican beat sound, then Jimmy Cliff will explain all!

He’s a great individualist, Jimmy Cliff. You can tell that by the way he dresses. Tight crushed velvet trousers, suede jacket with footlong fringing and a vest shirt that is both purple and red is hardly the gear you’d expect a quiet, mousy type to wear – and Jimmy Cliff, I’m delighted to say, is no mouse.

He’s been singing professionally now for many years and has the confidence to go with it.

“I used to sing at concerts when I was at school. At fourteen-and-a-half I went in for a talent competition and although I didn’t get through to the final, it made me decide what I wanted to do. so I went round looking for record producers and showed them the songs I’d written. I made my first record whilst I was still at school and when it took off I left. I was glad really because I didn’t like school. I was a trouble-maker I suppose – used to muck about and sing”.

If it seems stupid to you that Jimmy should leave school because of one record – then you’d be wrong, because his follow-up went to the top of the charts. In anyone’s books that’s quite a feat, when you consider Jimmy was just fifteen.

Jimmy, in case you didn’t know, was born and educated in Jamaica. Just to fill you in on facts he’s twenty-two, single, has two brothers, one sister and now lives in a flat in London’s Belgravia.

“After the hit record I had some more records in the charts, then someone offered me a contract to go to America with a band for a week. I went and then returned of course to Jamaica. I went to America once again before the Ministry of Welfare decided to promote Jamaican music abroad. Back again I went to America and this time I stayed for four months.”

After this trip to the States, Jimmy Cliff toured the West Indian islands for a few months, returned again to the States and then got the inclination to come to England. But once he got to England in ’65, his wanderings didn’t stop. He went out to Brazil, Argentina and Europe. Finally he ended up in Miami simply to relax and write some songs.

“It was whilst I was in Miami that I wrote Wonderful World. I hoped it would be a hit – it was my last effort at the charts. Before it was released I’d got to the stage that if it wasn’t a hit, I’d give it all up. A hit in Britain is more important in many ways that a hit in Jamaica. People look to Britain for trends in music – it’s one of the best places for a record to break.”

If Ska music sounds the same as the Reggae to you, then you are about to be told how it differs!

“The bass line is different. Reggae is much heavier than Ska music ever was. I really believe the Reggae is going to be the sound of the 70’s. All the record companies in the States are knocked out by the sound – they say it’s fresh, it has rhythm and it’s fantastic (Gabriela says: I totally agree!). This sort of music has been kept down for so long it’s got to be popular. The Reggae is really a progression from Ska and I think it’s more acceptable now.”

“What about the Reggae dance? Are there any set rules about how you would do that?”

“Basically it’s just body movement. There’s no set thing that you do – you just dig into the beat.”

Jimmy is one of the first people to get a hit with Reggae music – which should enable him to keep up his career as a singer and to buy some more clothes when he wants.

“I’d spend most of my money on clothes – I love them. Now I feel that the song has made it I feel I am on my way to achieving my ambiton, which is to entertain.”

Then, on reflection, Mr. Cliff had this to say: “It hasn’t been easy – in fact, sometimes it has been very rough. That’s why I decided this record was to be my last effort at the charts and, if it didn’t make it, then it wasn’t my scene.”

Fortunately, it is his scene. Hooreggae!

Julie Webb

And as always in parting, a nice little tune ;) What an artist, Mr. Cliff! But I agree with the first comment: “Where did they get that crowd from? The Graveyard? My God people… check for a pulse! I think they are all dead!” Ha, ha, ha!


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