My Secret Life: Jimmy Cliff, 64, reggae artist

'I should control my generosity'

Holly Williams
Wednesday 25 July 2012 22:24
Cliff's favourite item of clothing is his red jumper
Cliff's favourite item of clothing is his red jumper

The household I grew up in… was a three-bedroom house, with nine of us children, and grandmother around too.

When I was a child I wanted to be… I wanted to travel the world – I don't how that idea got in my head but I really wanted to see the world… towns, cities, countries, I wanted to see them all.

If I could change one thing about myself… I would try to control my generosity.

You wouldn't know it but I am very good at… athletics. Swimming, long-distance running… well, I'm not so good at the high jump or pole vaulting any more.

You may not know it but I'm no good at... courting a girl – I don't have the words or the skill.

At night I dream of… flying. I really like it.

I wish I had never worn… early on, some really tight trousers. They burst.

What I see when I look in the mirror… I see someone I love.

My favourite item of clothing… red jumpers.

I drive/ride… a BMW.

My house is… it's a five-bedroom house, with five bathrooms. It's quite cosy.

My favourite building… the pyramids in Giza, or the temples up in Luxor. I feel connected to them.

A book that changed me… The African Origin of Civilization by Cheikh Anta Diop, a writer from Senegal. It opened my eyes, my mind, to African civilisation and led me to start to study – prior to that I had no knowledge of what African people had done for the world.

Movie heaven… I still love the shoot-'em-up films! I grew up on them and I still love them.

The last album I bought... a gospel album by the Soul Stirrers.

My greatest regret… I have a few… I regret I didn't ever learn how to fly a plane. I had the opportunity when I started to make some money, and I regret I didn't really take the time out and put the effort in and do that. And I regret I didn't take the time out to study ancient languages too, like hieroglyphics, Hebrew, Greek, Chinese…

The last time I cried… I cried quite recently actually, after a concert I did. The reaction from the crowd was so overwhelming, when I got back into my dressing room I cried.

My five year plan… to win the Oscar, become the stadium act worldwide that I've always wanted to be, and have a string of No 1 hits all over the world.

What's the point? It's to grow, to understand myself in this universe.

My life in six words... Fucking brilliant and fantastic and amazing.

A life in brief

Jimmy Chambers was born in Jamaica in 1948, later changing his surname to Cliff. He had his first hit, 'Hurricane Hattie' aged just 14. Cliff scored international success with singles 'Wonderful World, Beautiful People' and 'Vietnam'. He starred in the film The Harder They Come, providing the soundtrack, including the title track, plus 'You Can Get it if You Really Want' and 'Many Rivers to Cross'. Cliff's new album Rebirth is out now; he plays at the Jamaica 50 concert at the indigO2 in London on 6 August. He lives in Jamaica.

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