Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee Jimmy Cliff easily surpassed expectations opening night of the 34th Celebrate Brooklyn concert at Prospect Park by reprising the hits that distinguishes him as one of reggae’s most prolific, songwriters and performers.
Introduced onstage by both Christine C. Quinn, the Speaker of the City Council and Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn Borough President — who attended a gala fundraiser for the summer series — Cliff was lauded for his showmanship and stellar achievement in the music industry.
“I had the privilege to be present at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame event when he was inducted,” Quinn said, “I remember that Bruce Springsteen followed afterwards and he was hard to follow.”
Markowitz remarked that Cliff’s kick-off of the annual in the place GQ Magazine recently named “coolest place on the planet” seemed significant.
The Brooklyn ambassador may not have known that the birthplace of the reggae ambassador was also recently ranked by CNN “the third coolest nation in the world” (behind Brazil and Singapore).
However, a few flag-waving Jamaicans reacted with awareness that the news agency made public and were willing to spread the word on the ‘cool’ status of the Caribbean country.
Cliff added to the island’s allure demonstrating some of the popular dances that originated there — Scooby Doo, Signal The Plane, Chaka Chaka, Tek Weh Yuself and acknowledged its beauty and milestone independent anniversary legacy singing the nostalgic “Miss Jamaica.”
“Big Up! Jamaica!” Cliff urged patrons.
“I hope you are all feeling irie.”
Cliff played the guitar, the drum and danced as if he was half his age.
He also unleashed an arsenal of hit songs from his 40-year musical, career:
“Wild World,” “I Can See Clearly Now,” “Afghanistan” “The Harder They Come” “You Can Get It…If You Really Try” “Save Our Planet,”“By The Rivers of Babylon,” and “Putting Up Resistance.”
Born 1948, James Chambers realized his dream early and changed his name to Cliff after relocating from rural Jamaica to the Kingston capital.
Two years after a reggae Grammy category was established, Cliff claimed one.
Two decades previously he starred in the film “The Harder They Come.”
Many identified with his renegade Ivan character to establish the film as a cult attraction and underground, box-office success.
Years later he also starred in “Bongo Man” and appeared in “Club Paradise” and “Marked for Death.”
And two years ago Cliff was inducted to the music industry’s shrine of pride the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Cliff was honored in his homeland in 2003 with an Order of Merit (OM), Jamaica’s third highest award. He is the only living musician to hold the distinction.
Cliff ended his set with his signature “Wonderful World…Beautiful People.”
He made a national television appearance two days after his Brooklyn performance on “Late Night With David Letterman.”