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Jimmy Cliff: An uncrowned king

After nearly 100 minutes of hearing the pulsating work of a legend, I stepped away from the magnificent performance into thoughts of confusion.

Jimmy Cliff, the underrated chief perpetrator of reggae music, had just finished his Sunday night Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival set, where his performance radiated the energy of a 20-something-year-old paired with the wisdom of a man 50 years into the game (he’s on his 51st). I saw his creation — but where is the consideration he deserves?

The 65-year-old musician continuously plays shows that leave audiences astounded, regardless of the songs’ age. On top of this ability, he is also the only currently living musician to hold the Order of Merit, the Jamaican government’s highest honor for achievement in the arts and sciences.

With all these accomplishments in mind, I wonder how Cliff remains a lesser-known celebrity in a country whose love for reggae music appears to have recently grown.

When it comes to our society’s reggae representative, one name comes to mind: Bob Marley. To a generation whose concept of reggae does not surpass a Marley T-shirt, I say this: do you know who actually created the foundation for this dominating force of music?

I am perplexed by the amount of music lovers with no understanding of this genre’s roots. Somehow there is a predetermined belief that King Bob owns reggae, the style that kick-started change in numerous countries through its protest-worthy lyrics and enlightening upbeat context.

Marley did, without a doubt, change reggae music, inciting a strong move towards social change and widespread acceptance. Yet the man that essentially created the ingenious art was none other than Jimmy Cliff.

Cliff is to reggae as Muddy Waters is to rock and roll. Due credit may not be given, but true music appreciators should understand the impact a pioneer has on his genre.

The pinnacle of a genre lies within its creator. I can only hope Cliff will soon be remembered for the untouchable work that continues to remain untouched.

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