Jimmy Cliff: Tiny Desk Concert Reggae giant Jimmy Cliff is a gentle soul whose most legendary songs appeared on the soundtrack to the film The Harder They Come. In many ways, his aging voice sounds better than ever at NPR Music.

Tiny Desk

Jimmy Cliff

Jimmy Cliff: Tiny Desk Concert

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/128383652/128432529" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Jimmy Cliff is a gentle soul — that's always come through in his songs and in the lilt in his voice. His most legendary songs appeared in the 1972 film The Harder They Come and its soundtrack; start with "Many Rivers to Cross" and you'll feel the heart, soul and wisdom of Jimmy Cliff.

Cliff starred in The Harder They Come as a reggae artist trying to make it in the music business, and the songs he sings — including "You Can Get It If You Really Want," "Sitting in Limbo" (both of which he performs in this Tiny Desk Concert) and "The Harder They Come" — never died. They're part of the soundtrack to a generation, but their reach extends beyond that. The Harder They Come put reggae on the map in the early '70s and became both an antidote and a guiding spirit to the punk and new wave music that would come a few years later.

For a musician, it must be hard to have your career hinge on your early music, but Jimmy Cliff always soldiered on. Still does. And his new songs are often as good as those early ones — he performs one, "I Got to Move On," here. But it is often circumstances, not songwriting abilities, that land a tune in the canon.

Jimmy Cliff was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year — and was, for many, the star performer there. In myriad ways, his aging voice sounds better than ever, having grown into those songs he wrote and sang nearly four decades ago. I felt honored to be a part of this Tiny Desk Concert, and pleased that we captured it for posterity.

Web Resources

[+] read more[-] less

More From Tiny Desk

ALA.NI performs a Tiny Desk Concert on June 20, 2017. (Photo: Liam James Doyle/NPR) Liam James Doyle/NPR/NRR hide caption

toggle caption Liam James Doyle/NPR/NRR

Tiny Desk

ALA.NI

ALA.NI captures and conveys a reverent love of early-20th-century music, while injecting those sounds with charisma and charm well suited for any era.

Maggie Rogers performs a Tiny Desk concert at NPR headquarters. Liam James Doyle/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Liam James Doyle/NPR

Tiny Desk

Maggie Rogers

The rising pop star performs three of her best-known songs, including a sweet solo take on her career-making "Alaska."

Aldous Harding performs a Tiny Desk Concert on June 6, 2017. (Claire Harbage/NPR) Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Tiny Desk

Aldous Harding

Intensity in songs often expresses itself as volume – a loud guitar, a scream, a piercing synth line. But in the case of Aldous Harding it's in the spaces, the pauses, and her unique delivery.

James Mercer of The Shins performs a Tiny Desk Concert on June 19, 2017. (Liam James Doyle/NPR) Liam James Doyle/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Liam James Doyle/NPR

Tiny Desk

The Shins

James Mercer, the emotional and creative heart of The Shins, gives a moving performance at the Tiny Desk, with two new songs and a classic from the band's 2003 album Chutes Too Narrow.

Albin Lee Meldau performs a Tiny Desk Concert on June 12, 2017. (Claire Harbage/NPR) Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Tiny Desk

Albin Lee Meldau

Albin Lee Meldau possesses a thunderous, deeply affecting voice, which he uses to tell some utterly dark, but demonstrably cathartic, tales.

Rare Essence performs a Tiny Desk Concert on June 9, 2017. (Liam James Doyle/NPR) Liam James Doyle/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Liam James Doyle/NPR

Tiny Desk

Rare Essence

Rare Essence has been bringing go-go to the world since 1976 — the group brought that pedigree, and the genre's massive meld of funk, rhythm and blues and soul, to this raucous hometown Tiny Desk.

Tuxedo performs a Tiny Desk Concert on May 20th, 2017. (Claire Harbage/NPR) Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Tiny Desk

Tuxedo

Tuxedo, the unlikely-on-paper funk-soul duo of Mayer Hawthorne and Jake One, brought a left-of-center sonic approach and a sharp sense of style to their Tiny Desk Concert.

Fragile Rock performs a Tiny Desk Concert on June 16, 2017. (Photo: Liam James Doyle/NPR) Liam James Doyle/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Liam James Doyle/NPR

Tiny Desk

Fragile Rock

Fragile Rock is a band that relies on the boogie of The B-52s, the melancholy of The Smiths and the humor of Kermit the Frog. Oh, and they're all puppets.

Jay Som performs a Tiny Desk Concert on June 7, 2017. (Liam James Doyle/NPR) Liam James Doyle/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Liam James Doyle/NPR

Tiny Desk

Jay Som

Melina Duterte may have played all the instruments on Jay Som's newest record, Everybody Works, but her touring band brought a rougher edge to those silky recordings.

Chance The Rapper performs a Tiny Desk Concert on June 5, 2017. (Claire Harbage/NPR) Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Tiny Desk

Chance The Rapper

Chance The Rapper, fresh from a 23,000-strong, sold-out show the night before, brought a thoughtful and fresh take to his Tiny Desk concert.

Back To Top