Maranda Pleasant: Hey how are you?
Jimmy Cliff: I’m good, Maranda. How are you?
MP: I’m fantastic. I’m so thrilled to talk to you.
JC: Wonderful, thank you.
MP: Hey, where are you right now?
JC: I am in Marseille, in the south of France.
MP: (laughs) It’s a hard life, isn’t it?
JC: (laughs) Yes it is!
MP: What are you doin’ there?
JC: Well, we did a show last night, and I’m getting ready now to leave to go to Switzerland.
MP: So, you are in full tour mode right now. It’s your new album, Rebirth?
JC: Yes. That’s right.
MP: What was it in you that just had to be born on this album? What needed to be said? Your main inspiration?
JC: I made an EP just before this with Tim Armstrong as producer. And it was called Sacred Fire. Now, this Sacred Fire was all the secrets that I had kept sacred inside of me to put out. And so after that EP, everything felt so good that I felt it was time to put out all these secrets that I had inside of me, which is expressions regarding our social, political, spiritual life on this planet, ecological life on this planet. And particularly in my career, the goals that I’ve set of making a string of number one hits, winning an Oscar, and all of those things. (laughs) So these are inspirations.
MP: (laughs) What is the thing that makes you feel the most vulnerable?
JC: I think family situations, you know? I’m very attached to my family and protective of them and miss them, and that situation, my connection with that can make me become very vulnerable.
MP: How do you channel your pain?
JC: If I don’t channel it into a song, I play my guitar or play the piano or play my drums, or go swimming. You know? Some of these kinds of things. Those are the outlets that I have to channel it into.
MP: What is it now, that sets your soul on fire the most?
JC: The fact that I have these goals to accomplish. The fact that I make these goals that I told you about. (laughing) I am able to not take myself too seriously, but I am serious about them.
MP: I know that you probably get this all the time, but I just read briefly that Ted Armstrong is more of a punk rock producer, and you’re reggae. That must have been this beautiful crazy. How is that working together? Him being from this strong punk rock background.
JC: Well, you see, reggae influenced punk. And we address the same issues of social-political things, and sometimes to the point of anti-establishment. That made it very easy to work with Ted, plus he’s a connoisseur of reggae. So that made everything flow so smoothly.
MP: Are there any issues on the planet that you’re particularly passionate about right now?
JC: Yes, I am. Social justice has always been a part of my inspiration. For example, when the Vietnam War was going on, I wrote a song about that. Another reason for calling the album Rebirth is because the planet is going through a rebirth, and thus, we see the breakdown of man-made laws politically, socially, religiously. All of those laws are breaking down now; we’re coming into a rebirth of the planet. And some cultures have echoed it, such as the Mayans have echoed that, and it came from the ancient Egyptians. So I’m very inspired by all of this, knowing that just over two thousand years ago, this planet went through a change, and it’s a normal thing for every two thousand three hundred years a planet to go through a new change; new laws, new things is happening. So we’re not to be surprised at all what we see happening in every part of the world. It’s a change of the return of things.
MP: Are you going through your own rebirth as an artist and as a man?
JC: Exactly! That is part of it, too. So, it’s a combination of my personal rebirth as an artist, as a being, and also the consciousness of the rebirth of the planet.
MP: What’s one of the biggest things that you see right now happening on the planet as part of that transformation?
JC: Well, the breakdown. Look what’s happening in the banking system. They never thought that all these things would have been discovered. Look what’s happening with religions, and they’re all being exposed. Look at what’s happening with scientific things. They have discovered dark matter. They have discovered what is called the God Particle. All that is going to make religion obsolete. These are the things that are amazing, and it’s an amazing time to be living in. It’s a higher energy that we’re going to be coming into.
MP: Yes. I’m so with you. So, what are your plans? You’re going to be touring the rest of this year?
JC: (laughs) Yeah. Right. Well, I’m on this tour now. We’re going to finish the European leg. We’re coming back to the U.S. and to Canada, and at the end of that, I intend to pursue my acting career, you know? Like I said, I have yet to call in that Oscar. So I have three movies on the table right now.
MP: You never stop (laughing). You really do it all. Where do you live?
JC: I live between Jamaica and Paris.
MP: Oh. I lived in Paris for a long time. Jimmy, you better watch out for those French women (laughs) They will break your heart!
JC: (laughing) Tell me about it!
MP: (laughing) Oh, that’s a whole other interview right there, on the French! You’re just such a legend, and you’ve impacted so many people’s lives and influenced so much. Is there anything else you’d like to say?
JC: Well, you know what I want to say is since we’re coming into a rebirth, and there’s a consciousness of health, because the disease that is death, we are able to overcome that. So encouraging people to eat right, think right, all of those things. Good thinking brings good feeling and good feeling brings good thinking.
Photos 1 & 2: Thomas Sheehan
Photo 3: Greg Watermann