Jimmy Cliff - Live @ The Marquee - 12th September 2002

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The Marquee - 12th September 2002

It was going to be good, I knew that, but Jimmy Cliff blew me away!

He opened with "You Can Get It If You Really Want" - everyone in the newly re-opened Marquee in Islington started grinning and dancing and pretty much remained that way throughout the gig!

Jimmy has been singing and performing his whole life and has played all over the world to all sorts of people, yet he welcomed us as if we were friends of his, included us in his songs - he sang to us, we sang back! We listened to him and he to us.

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The man undoubtedly has immense talent, both as a songwriter and a musician, and also as a communicator.

During the course of the night he sang, played the guitar, keyboards and a drum. He played songs from throughout his career, ones we all knew - "The Harder They Come", "I Can See Clearly Now", "Many Rivers to Cross", and ones we didn't know. Some of it was roots reggae, there was some funk in there and also some rock. He would sing slow and raw, and then a minute later he was bouncing along to Ska.

Two things really came across to me during the night.

Firstly, the huge influence that Africa has had on Jimmy - he is undoubtedly the biggest Jamaican star in Africa; he has toured the Congo and recorded music in Zaire. You can hear the influence in his music - you feel that his reggae is grassroots and totally honest. Reggae after all, emerged from the heart of Africa.

Secondly, (and this is where Jimmy talents as a great communicator came into their own), the man is passionate about our environment, about the state of the planet. His song "Save Our Planet Earth" speaks for itself. He sang it to us, and then made us sing it to him. His passion became our passion; we sang it over and over, louder and louder. It can't help but make an impact!

"Many Rivers to Cross" (which has been covered by many including UB40, Little Milton and others) tells us how far we have to go to get ourselves out of the terrible mess we are in.

It's all great music with an important message, but you can listen to it on whatever level you want - he doesn't preach, he just tells it how it is. It's not surprising then to learn that in the 1991 Earth Summit in Rio De Janeiro Jimmy was invited to attend in the capacity of spiritual advisor. It's not surprising then to learn that he has co-written a song with Dave Stewart called "Peace One Day" which will be played all over the world, and will be on the internet on 21st September - the UN designated International Day of Peace!

Jimmy Cliff is a true star and seeing him and listening to him last night, it is apparent he is also an important figure in today's politics. There's no doubt that he will go from strength to strength.

What a night!

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