Wednesday, December 10, 2014

wonderful world, beautiful people

Jimmy Cliff traveled a hard road with many rivers to cross, making a better way with the hopeful grooves of this progressive ska classic.  He was born James Chambers on April's Fool's Day, 1948 in St. James near Montego Bay, Jamaica.  When he was fourteen, he moved to Kingston to attend technical school and came up with an idea to promote a local hangout with a song he wrote ("Dearest Beverley"). He forced his way into an audition with Leslie Kong and his two older brothers Cecil and Lloyd, who ran a restaurant, ice cream parlour and record shop called Beverley's:   "I told them I have some songs, and one said to me, 'I'm not in the business.'   'But you sell records. You might want to get in the business.' Two of the brothers laughed, but this other brother told me, 'You have the best voice I've ever heard in Jamaica.' And I was like, yes! Because when you get somebody who sees in you what you see in yourself, it was a great encouragement ...  I started at Beverley’s and I had hits and I became one of the people who did the auditions for new artists and the other person, the senior person was Derrick Morgan. Desmond Dekker came and I auditioned him. The first song that I chose was ‘Honour Your Mother And Your Father’ and he got that one recorded and it was a big hit for him. And that was the start of his recording career. Now Desmond and Bob Marley used to work together at the same welding plant. So after I auditioned him and he got that song he went back and said to Bob, 'I’m recording a song for Beverley’s after doing an audition with Jimmy Cliff – are you interested?' And he said yes. So he sent Bob down and he recorded about five songs and I chose three of them and then it went to Derek Morgan and he chose the same three and that was the beginning of his career as well. So at that point of time we were all on the same label and all worked under the same roof and we worked together for quite a number of years...I was interested in Chris Blackwell in Jamaica at the time because I was told he paid the best money. Ha ha ha! So of course I wanted to meet him but I never really got to meet him until I first went to New York to do some recording there in 1964 [with Byron Lee and the Dragonaires]. I got some great reviews in the magazines. We met and he said, "Why don’t you come to England? You’re doing great but you could be doing greater." I was a little bit reluctant because I was getting these great reviews but he said, "Yeah, you can stay in America but there are lots of singers in America like you. But if you come to England there are not so many singers like you and you stand a better chance." And that’s what changed my mind...The living was alright economically because Chris was looking after that side of things for the time before I got a band and started to work, then I had to pay back that money. But what was difficult was living in a new society. It was very difficult to adjust to life in the UK...When you hear the line in [‘Many Rivers To Cross’], “Wandering I am lost, as I travel along the White Cliffs of Dover”, that came from the number of times I crossed the channel to the continent. Most of the time it was France but sometimes it was Germany. It was a very frustrating time. I came to England with very big hopes and I saw my hopes fading. And that song came out of that experience."

His eponymous Trojan Records release 
'Jimmy Cliff' was produced by Larry Fallon, John Kelly, and Leslie Kong utilizing members of Beverley's All Stars and Gladdy's All Stars including Gladstone "Gladdy" Anderson on keyboards;   Jackie Jackson on bass;  Winston Grennan and Paul Douglas on drums;  Hucks Brown on guitar;  and Winston Wright on organ.   Fallon also did the arrangements.  The album would be re-released with the title 'Wonderful World, Beautiful People' after that song became a hit in the UK and the US.  By that point, he was already branching out into other musical forms.  

Cliff looks back on his restless nature:     "I can’t continue doing the same thing all the time. My creative spirit is to invent and to create something fresh. I contributed to creating reggae because when I came into the business there was no reggae and ska was just forming and I contributed to that. But what I really enjoyed doing was creating new things...I’ve been in different genres of music and there was a period of time where I had a successful album with Wonderful World, Beautiful People [1969] and all those songs. But then I didn’t follow them up in that reggae idiom; I went to Muscle Shoals and followed up with a different [kind of] album. And at the back of my head I always felt that there was a missing link from the chain. I always felt like I should go back and make another straight up reggae album...I think I kind of grew up with punk a bit more than Bob [Marley] because he was visiting England at the time whereas I actually lived there and watched the birth of it. From a musical point of view it was very fresh because when you blend all these things together like rock and reggae, then you end up with something new. And this is what I really like… invention. And lyrically what they were saying, expressing the social and political issues of the day, well that was really up my street. I liked punk a lot...Ska was a very celebratory music and it was celebrating Jamaican independence. But then people started looking inside themselves and asking, ‘Well, we have independence but what does this actually mean?’ And then the mind and spirit slowed down so the music slowed down. And then the spirituality came into the music so people looked toward Africa to discover what their roots were, so that’s how the music changed. The spirit of the people and the society of the people changed so the music changed as well."

"Many Rivers to Cross" has become a reggae classic; but at the time of its release it only charted at number thirty-seven in France.   Cliff confesses:    “When I came to the UK, I was still in my teens. I came full of vigour: I’m going to make it, I’m going to be up there with the Beatles and the Stones. And it wasn’t really going like that, I was touring clubs, not breaking through. I was struggling, with work, life, my identity, I couldn’t find my place; frustration fuelled the song.  I had the idea but it wasn’t ripe...I waited till I got to New York and linked up with Chris Blackwell. We were mixing the record and putting on what we call sweetening, adding overdubs and backing vocals. It was a 15-minute walk to the Record Plant studio, and on that walk I kind of finished the song in my head. It was the last day, the end of the session, the musicians were getting up to go, and I said, ‘Excuse me, please, I have this one song idea, do you mind to have a listen to it?’ And they grumble a little bit, ‘Ah, we’re finishing,’ cause they work off union time. But they gave me a few minutes. I took up my guitar, they gave me a mic and I played the song.  I started singing, the band came in, and that was it. Once. That was it. And then Chris said, ‘OK, let’s put this one in to fill out the album.’ It became a classic, because everyone can relate to it, everyone at some point asks ‘Who am I? Why am I here? What am I going to do?’ ”

Many rivers to cross
But I can't seem to find my way over
Wandering, I am lost
As I travel along the white cliffs of Dover

Many rivers to cross
And it's only my will that keeps me alive
I've been licked, washed up for years
And I merely survive because of my pride

And this loneliness won't leave me alone
It's such a drag to be on your own
My woman left me and she didn't say why
Well, I guess I'll have to cry

Many rivers to cross
But just where to begin, I'm playing for time
There've been times I find myself
Thinking of committing some dreadful crime

Yes, I've got many rivers to cross
But I can't seem to find my way over
Wandering, I am lost

As I travel along the white cliffs of Dover

"Wonderful World, Beautiful People" went to number twenty-five in the US, seventeen in Ireland, thirteen in Belgium, twelve in the Netherlands, and six in the UK. 

Wonderful world, beautiful people
You and your girl, things could be pretty
But underneath this there is a secret
That nobody can reveal

Take a look at the world
And the state that it's in today
I am sure you'll agree
We all could make it a better way
With our love, put together
Everybody learn to love each other

Instead of fussing and fighting
Cheating, backbiting
Scandalizing and hating
Baby we could have a
Wonderful world, beautiful people
You and your girl, things could be pretty
But underneath this there is a secret
That nobody can reveal

Man and woman, girl and boy
Let us try to give a helping hand
This I know and I'm sure
That with love we all could understand
This is our world, can't you see?
Everybody wants to live and be free

Instead of fussing and fighting
Cheating, backbiting
Scandalizing and hating
We could have a
Wonderful world, beautiful people
You and your girl, things could be pretty
But underneath this there is a secret
That nobody can reveal

Talking about the
Wonderful world, beautiful people
You and your girl, talking about you
Things could be pretty, talking about me
Wonderful world, talking about Nixon
Beautiful people, Harold Wilson
Wonderful world, power too

Beautiful people, and the Seagate


"Hello Sunshine"

"Come Into My Life"

'Wonderful World, Beautiful People'
full album:

All songs written and composed by Jimmy Cliff; except where indicated. 

Side one
1. "Time Will Tell"     4:12
2. "Many Rivers to Cross"     2:44
3. "Vietnam"     4:52
4. "Use What I Got"     3:04
5. "Hard Road to Travel"     2:36

Side two
1. "Wonderful World, Beautiful People"     3:15
2. "Sufferin' in the Land"     3:12
3. "Hello Sunshine"     2:49
4. "My Ancestors"   Demetriss Tapp 3:34
5. "That's The Way Life Goes"     2:12
6. "Come Into My Life"     2:55

bonus tracks
12. "Let's Dance"     2:36
13. "Give a Little, Take a Little"     2:28
14. "Those Good, Good Old Days"     3:46
15. "Pack up, Hang Ups"     3:37
16. "My World Is Blue"     2:53
17. "Better Days Are Coming"     3:21
18. "Where Did It Go?"   Desmond Dekker, Leslie Kong 3:17

'This Is Ska'

part one

part two

part three

part four

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