Jimmy Cliff: An Unauthorized Biography

David Katz, Author
David Katz. Interlink, $17 trade paper (244p) ISBN 9781566568692
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James Chambers, later to become the renowned Jimmy Cliff, grew up in a poor Jamaican village without running water or electricity, but had the good fortune of being born to supportive parents. When it was time for him to move to Kingston, he was given a choice: school or a radio. He chose the radio. In this meticulously annotated but otherwise arid biography, reggae historian David Katz (Solid Foundation: An Oral History of Reggae) charts the implications of that choice and Cliff's rise as a performer. Katz dutifully recounts Cliff's career, from his early performances, first recordings and a star-making part in The Harder They Come to African tours and high-profile appearances in movies like Club Paradise and Marked for Death. However, Katz leaves out much of Cliff's personal life. He is quick to note Cliff's chart positions and cultural importance, but offers little insight regarding how fame affected him. Those familiar with Cliff's body of work will likely find the recording and touring minutiae to be of value, but those looking for insight into Jimmy Cliff the person will be woefully underserved. (Dec.)
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