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IRIE FM Lifetime Award conferred on Jimmy Cliff a Music Icon

IRIE FM Lifetime Award conferred on Jimmy Cliff a Music Icon

Source: Caribnewsroom.com by Hope Heaven & Sharon Parris-Chambers

Photo Caption: Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett (left) shares a special moment with Jimmy Cliff, IRIE FM Lifetime Achievement awardee, and former Prime Minister, the Most Hon. P.J. Patterson (right). They are pictured here together on Sunday, February 12, 2017 at the inaugural IRIE FM Lifetime Achievement awards ceremony, held at the Somerton All-Age School, St. James, Jamaica.

Photo Credit: Ministry of Tourism

Nestled in a lush green valley where a river once ran, is a town called Somerton. It is the childhood hometown of musician, actor, rock and roll hall of famer, the honorable Doctor Jimmy Cliff, OM.

Sunday, February 12, 2017 saw droves of people from all cultures and walks of life, take the winding road on the outskirts of Montego Bay, to this cool, fertile, hilly town to participate in the honoring of this great Jamaican icon. Jamaica’s reggae radio, IRIE FM chose to bestow upon him the honor of a Lifetime Achievement Award, for a body of work that spans 55 years with a discography of over 300 songs.

It was history in the making for Somerton, a community that nurtured the stalwart Jimmy Cliff who encapsulates the genres of film, music and the arts, a former prime minister PJ Patterson who originated in Adelphi land, and prolific, celebrated director & screenwriter Lennie Little-White, (cousin to Jimmy) were all schooled there at the Somerton All Age & Infant school. The Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, announced during his presentation, that the magnitude of their contirbution, has greatly inspired the Ministry of Tourism to turn Somerton All Age School into a School of Excellence for the Arts and Culture.

The programme hosted by Okyeame Professor Carolyn Cooper, CD and designed by Ka’bu Ma’at Kheru presented a professional quality of excellence that will become the model to follow. The Tributes to Dr Jimmy Cliff, Music Icon  were numerous, taking the form of prose, poetry, dub and song.

The School’s little auditorium packed to capacity, with the surrounding grounds spilled to overflowing, was bursting with love and respect for the Music icon. Bongo Herman, took to the microphones to share his story as one of the actors in the movie “The Harder They Come,” then took to his drums and with chants of “Bongo man a come," he gave a powerful performance to enliven the thrilled audience.  


Hon. Percival James Patterson ON, PC presented his tribute based on his personal recollections of Somerton, which he referred to as his backbone, a place of fond memories.During his tribute, he pointed out the various ‘Books’ or Grades from first to sixth which he completed and then went on to Calabar.  Patterson reminded the audience that Somerton All Age & Infant School is one of the first schools formed after slavery was abolished. He spoke of the vison of Somerton returning to the days of his youth where people stopped to say ‘howdie do,’ people knew and protected each other. On one of his official trips to Benin, West Africa, Patterson saw huge Posters of Jimmy Cliff posted on light poles in the town and when he identified himself as a friend of Jimmy, he gained the respect of the people of Benin. Patterson concluded in saying “the next occasion of tribute will be to recognize Somerton as a School of Excellence for the people they have produced”.

His Worship, Homer Davis the Mayor of Montego Bay gave greetings and announced that plans were in place to rename Gloucester Avenue, known as the ‘Hip Strip in that town, the ‘Jimmy Cliff Blvd’.

Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett gave a rousing speech in which he said of the Honoree “when you go across the world Jimmy Cliff pops up not just as a reference of another human being, but a powerful representation of iconoclastic achievement from a little country that like a boat on a big ocean packs waves that are so mighty to be called tsunami.”

With deference to the great talent and achievements he declared that Somerton All Age School would become a School of Excellence for the Arts and Culture.

Ali McNab represented Hon. Olivia Babsy Grange, the Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sports; he read a prepared message that lauded Dr Jimmy Cliff’s contributions to Jamaica’s music cache on the international tourism export market and also spoke on the significance of the music icon being honored by his own and at home. The Culture Minister thanked IRIE FM and Carl Young its founder for his sterling contributions and hoped this would be a signal to other Media to play a role of increasing cultural awareness over and above just carrying the news.

Justine Henzel, daughter of the late Perry Henzell director of the film “The Harder They Come” gave a rousing tribute which shared the love she and her family has for Jimmy Cliff and detailed their shared history leading up to the production of the film. The Henzell family tribute was well received by the audience and her brother Jason Henzel, who would play in the IRIE FM Invitational vs Jimmy Cliff All Stars at the end of the Awards ceremony.


Students of the Somerton all age and infant school showcased their talents with dub poetry, interspersed with some of Jimmy’s songs. L' Cadco, dancers turned words into body language and moved the audience with a frenetic, but sophisticated tribute in dance called “Many moods of Jimmy Cliff".

Tony Greene made his saxophone speak a haunting melody of " Many Rivers to Cross". Yasus Afari and Bushman fused dub poetry "Washing all your troubles Away with the melodious warble of "I Can See Clearly Now". 

Queen Ifrica delivered a strong rendition of “The Harder They Come”.

Tammy T implored Jimmy to sing with her a song called "For Love". From his front row seat his voice joined hers onstage and together they soared, voices lifting in an emotional, haunting rendition of this piece which meant so much to Tammy.

Lennie Little-White composed a biography where he likened Marcus Garvey, Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff as three sides of a triangle, and showcased how their paths fused to make them the greatest Jamaica has ever produced. He also referred to his growing up with Jimmy in Somerton and believing his mother who told them that they had the potential within to choose more than the mundane path of life. With words and music to amplify, he moved through Jimmy’s life path from Somerton to Kingston, England, to his first hit song about a hurricane called ‘Hattie’, introducing Bob Marley to the music scene, his starring role as Ivan in the movie “The Harder They Come" (co-written by Jamaica’s Perry Henzel). Jimmy’s life of black self-reliance, his ability to portray rude boy and a saint, his gift as a singer, song writer, entertainer, his shyness and way of expressing himself with words were all highlighted. His search for self, his spirituality, his desire for social justice and the radical stance he took to be himself, he spoke the universal language and connected to people and was the first through the movie "The Harder They Come", to introduce reggae music to the world.

Caribnewsroom posed a question to Jimmy – “With Jamaica as it is now, what would you like to see changed?” He replied that he wanted to see jobs and opportunities for the youth. He said it was the lack thereof which has created scamming and such violence in the country and when jobs are created, the violence would lessen immensely.

From all the tributes, it is clear to see that Jimmy has great interest in the cause of the youth, social justice, community effort & outreach, his spirituality, living a life of purpose and choosing to take a path that honors and uplifts others. This has led him to receiving the IRIE FM Lifetime Achievement Award. 

Dr Jimmy Cliff gracefully accepted his Lifetime Achievement Award presented by Ka’bu Ma’at Kheru wherein he thanked Victor Chambers his brother, stressed that “the values learned are still with us; the bridge was built with our money, our love. Love is still here, consciousness is still here. We don’t depend on politicians, we respect them, but we don’t depend on them. Our Community Centre, we did that with our own money, sweat and blood. Community spirit is still here.” He went further to vision the community as Eco Tourism area, speaking to Minister Edmund Bartlett, he said “I will detail it for you when we meet.”

Close to dusk, he then moved outside the auditorium, took to the stage and freely and lovingly gave a doting receptive audience a stirring rendition of his hit songs through the ages. He also introduced songs from his new album and sang one to women about them being more than girls, females, women, that they are goddesses. 


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