We Fall Hard for Jimmy Cliff

Jimmy Cliff has been singing reggae hits for 50 years, including the title track of the classic movie “The Harder They Come,” in which he also starred.  And he's still going strong: last year's album Rebirth won the Grammy for best Reggae album.  He brings us this sunny soundtrack...

0:00 0:00
Matt Roberts/Getty Images

Jimmy Cliff: Hi, blessed love, this is Jimmy Cliff. In case you don’t know who that is, as I would say, “The harder they come, the harder they fall.” Good to be with you all.

So okay, here’s my list of songs that I would play at a dinner party, and they’re some of my favorite people that I grew up with, who are really inspiring to me.

Fats Domino – “Be My Guest”

My first song is Fats Domino’s “Be My Guest” and I love this song because the first time I performed to an audience bigger than what I would perform to in school, was I performed the Fats Domino song a cappella, and that song was “Be My Guest.”

I heard Fats Domino on the radio in Jamaica when I was a little kid. At nights we could pick up the radio in New Orleans, and that’s how I heard Fats Domino on the radio there. I love this sound; the beats are just like popping right through the radio.

Sam Cooke – “A Change is Gonna Come”

Well the next song I’d play would be Sam Cooke, “A Change is Gonna Come.” As a child, they used to put on Sam Cooke’s song on the jukebox and say “Sing along with it.” I would sing along with it and they would give me Coke. Well, you know, a Coke at that time was a great thing.

Sam Cooke is also very inspirational for me – one of the great voices.

Rancid – “Ruby Soho”

Another song I would play at a dinner party is “Ruby Soho.” “Ruby Soho” is a Rancid song, and on my new album I’ve done a cover version of it. Both versions are really good.

That song is a song that I identify with so well because it speaks about a touring musician who has to leave his family, and you know, the sadness of leaving your family all the time. Your family is there in the distance, you waving goodbye to them, destination unknown. So whether it’s reggae or rap, or rock and roll, or country, I listen to everything.

Jimmy Cliff – “Reggae Music”

At a dinner party I would play “Reggae Music.” “Reggae Music” is a song from my new album. Reggae music gonna make me feel good; reggae music gonna make me feel all right. That’s a great one for the party.

That song is kind of really telling my story and kind of the story of reggae from the beginning up to this time, 2013. So it’s compacting four decades in like a four and a half minute song.