Joy to the World

Godfather of reggae Jimmy Cliff weighs in on his career, energy level and giving advice to a troubled world

At age 64, Jamaican Jimmy Cliff has as much energy as he did when his career started 40-plus years ago. On a world tour that has him performing a minimum of four shows a week, the reggae rocker is spreading joy and positivity.

Hits that shaped his career—including “The Harder They Come,” “Many Rivers to Cross” and “Sitting in Limbo”— will likely be on the set list for his June 21 show at the Hard Rock Hotel, as well as songs from his new album, Rebirth. While preparing to release Rebirth, Cliff took time to chat with Vegas Seven.

What excites you about this show?

The fans that are looking out for the classics but at the same time, there is going to be so much new music from the new album … that I’m so excited about singing, and I’m sure the fans are going to be feeling that way as well.

Rancid’s Tim Armstrong produced Rebirth but you also collaborated on your EP, Sacred Fire. What was that like?

Coming out of the punk-rocker medium … and seeing that reggae inspired and influenced punk music made it very joyful.

Can you describe being viewed as a world figure who can connect to others?

I highly appreciate that because it’s what I set out to do in my life. … I love to be happy, and I love to make people happy. … To have that all over the world, it brings more joy to me and gives me more encouragement to continue.

Onstage it appears you have boundless energy. What’s your secret?

I remember the first time I stepped into a studio, and I heard the band strike up … and it sent all the chills through my body. … I still get it every time I go onstage and hear the band. Plus when I see people in front of me, the energy and applause and the look in their eyes, [it] gives me energy.

Is there anything else you would like to accomplish?

I’ve yet to win an Oscar because acting was my first love. … And I’ve yet to be a stadium act, I’ve not had the many No. 1’s I’ve set out to do, and my greatest songs are not yet written so there are many rivers to cross.

Across the planet we are in a turbulent time. Do you have words of wisdom for people?

Wherever we are, we are in the infinity of life and we have to realize the transitions of time are a process of life. So the aspect of hope, we should never give that up … because there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Just have to remember the simple things.