He is one of the most well-known figures in Jamaican music. Jimmy Cliff, a Jamaican singer, multi-instrumentalist, and actor, was born James Chambers but is best known as Jimmy Cliff. He is the only living reggae musician to be awarded the Order of Merit, which can be given to any citizen of Jamaica or a distinguished citizen of another country for achievements in science, the arts, literature, or any other field.
He began creating songs while still in primary school before relocating to Kingston at the age of fourteen when he persuaded a record store owner to record him. Many Rivers to Cross, “You Can Get It If You Really Want,” “Wonderful World, Beautiful People,” “Reggae Night,” “The Harder They Come,” and “Hakuna Matata” are some of his most well-known songs today. And, of course, there’s “Have You Heard The News,” the problematic tune.
The first line of the song is as follows:
Have you heard the news (News News News) 4X
I was in Africa. Down in Nigeria
Oh they threw me in jail
I had one hell getting bail
Jimmy Cliff is singing about an awful incident that occurred during his time in Nigeria in the 1970s. In what was reportedly his first visit to Africa, the music legend landed in Nigeria in 1974 for a musical performance.
At the airport, he was met by a large crowd. The landscape fascinated the singer, as only the Beatles had received such a boisterous greeting from tens of thousands of people at the airport at the time.
Jimmy Cliff quickly prepared to wow Nigerians with a spectacular performance. And so he did until a quarrel arose, and he was arrested and imprisoned as a result of claims made by an enraged promoter.
“Nigeria was my first trip to Africa. In a recent interview with theartsdesk, Jimmy Cliff described the experience as “bittersweet.”
“It’s sweet because there are thousands of people waiting for me at the airport. I’d never experienced that kind of adoration before; I’d only seen it for The Beatles, so having it for myself was fantastic. From the airport to the hotel, they lined the street. It was incredible. The worst aspect was that I was thrown in jail for no apparent cause. ‘I’m the one who was meant to bring Jimmy Cliff to Africa,’ said a man. I had a contract with him in London that he didn’t show up for, so now that he’s here, I’m filing a civil complaint against him.’
Jimmy Cliff claimed he was imprisoned in Nigeria for three nights. After the claim against him was dismissed due to a lack of evidence, the singer was released by the courts.
“Where was the proof when I got to court? Nothing! As a result, they tossed it out,” he explained.
Other prominent performers, including Bob Marley, Diana Ross, and Michael Jackson, are said to have avoided Nigeria as a result of Jimmy Cliff’s tragedy.
Despite the fact that Jimmy Cliff described Nigeria as “a pretty rough place” after his arrest, he said he “liked the energy.”
“My first trip to Nigeria was not a pleasant one! However, I still adored the country, and it was wonderful when I returned!” he told reggaeville.com.
Meeting with music legend Fela Kuti in Lagos in 1974 was perhaps one of his most memorable experiences in the West African country.
He was an extremely intense individual. He was confident in what he was doing. However, I adored his songs. I had never heard of him before staying at the Kalakuta [Fela’s estate] that night, but I was blown away. It was just the way he was — fierce – because he was a terrific artist and believed in what he was doing.”
Jimmy Cliff, the reggae legend, has traveled widely, garnering followers from all over the world. When asked lately about his favorite place to visit, he said Africa. “…Africa is one of my favorite places on the planet. Even before I became aware of Africa, I fell in love with the place, the vibe, and the spirit when I first visited. Even if I’ve had some poor luck!”
Apart from Nigeria, the Jamaican superstar has also visited Mali, Sierra Leone, and South Africa in Africa. He appeared before a mixed crowd in South Africa in the 1980s, where his music motivated individuals opposing apartheid.
In 2012, Jimmy Cliff told reggaeville.com that “for some reason they allowed all the people to come to my shows, so maybe that was the beginning of the breakdown of apartheid.” “It’s one of the experiences from my career that has always stuck out and had an impact on me.”
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