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(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE HARDER THEY COME")

GUY RAZ, HOST:

And if you're just joining us, you're listening to WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.

And it's time now for music. The two artists most responsible for bringing reggae to the world stage: Bob Marley, of course, and this man, Jimmy Cliff.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE HARDER THEY COME")

JIMMY CLIFF: (Singing) So as sure as the sun will shine, I'm gonna get my share now what is mine. And then the harder they come, the harder they fall, one and all.

RAZ: Jimmy Cliff's best known for the 1972 film "The Harder They Come," both as its lead actor and for the three, now legendary songs included on its soundtrack. But after that, the world embraced Bob Marley as reggae's ambassador and Jimmy Cliff more or less worked in the shadow. But his new album sounds like a man claiming what was rightfully his all along.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ONE MORE")

CLIFF: (Singing) One more, one more, one more, one more, I got one more song I'ma sing...

RAZ: Jimmy Cliff's latest album is called "Rebirth." He says it refers to both the rebirth of the planet and the rebirth of his career.

CLIFF: I'm at the point where I'm taking my career to a next level. It kind of started out when the new millennium began. And up to, let's say, like, from 2010, when I received the induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, that was like a stepping stone up to the next ladder. I had started writing this album without knowing I was going to call it "Rebirth," but I had quite a bit of the songs before. So that's about the rebirth of Jimmy Cliff's career, but the rebirth of the planet is also about the new time that we're coming into. We're coming into a new time when all the old laws and ways are breaking down. We're coming into a new time. And I expressed all of this in some of the songs on the new album.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WORLD IS UPSIDE DOWN")

CLIFF: (Singing) Looking at the world today, I am implored to say so much more in poverty, while few enjoy prosperity. They say the world is spinning around. I say the world is upside down.

RAZ: It was really you as a sort of this singular figure who introduced reggae to much of the world in the late '60s and in the early '70s. And this record almost sounds like a reintroduction of the music that you made back in the early days.

CLIFF: Yes. And the reason for that is as a rebirth, one has to go back to point zero to move forward again. And so that is what we did. We recorded the music with the same instruments that we had used back in the days, the same style that we used to record, which is everyone recording at the same time as opposed to today with one person do a part and another part.

RAZ: This was done live to tape?

CLIFF: Yes. Yes, exactly.

RAZ: Just like back in the old days in Kingston.

CLIFF: Back in the old days is how we used to do it then, yes.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "REGGAE MUSIC")

RAZ: Indeed, you sing about those old days in the song "Reggae Music." This is really a song about your life.

CLIFF: Yes. It is a song about my life, my career, as well as incorporating reggae music, you know, how it came about. I sort of touch on a few of the high points of reggae music, which propelled it to the world.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "REGGAE MUSIC")

CLIFF: (Singing) 1971, a new era begun, with the holiday comes (unintelligible) where reggae music came from. It was Winston Wright, Jackie Jackson (unintelligible), now, reggae music is where one has nothing to hide. Reggae music gonna make me feel good, reggae music gonna make me feel all right now...

RAZ: I'm speaking with reggae pioneer Jimmy Cliff. His new record is called "Rebirth." Jimmy Cliff, many people were introduced to you and to your music in the 1972 film "The Harder They Come." You portrayed Ivanhoe Martin. And there's sort of a full circle now on this record. You sing a version of the Clash song "Guns of Brixton," which has that line.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GUNS OF BRIXTON")

CLIFF: (Singing) Well, you know he feels like Ivan...

RAZ: He feels like Ivan born under the Brixton sun.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GUNS OF BRIXTON")

CLIFF: (Singing) His game is called surviving at the end of the harder they come.

RAZ: His game is called surviving at the end of the harder they come. That film was influential on that band, and here you are, you're covering that song, "Guns of Brixton."

CLIFF: Yes. And one of the reasons for covering that song was to show and remind people the influence that reggae music had on punk music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GUNS OF BRIXTON")

CLIFF: (Singing) When they kick out your front door, how you gonna come? With your hands on your head, or on the trigger of your gun?

RAZ: What do you sort of ascribe that influence of reggae on punk to? How did that happen?

CLIFF: Oh, because reggae and punk addresses the same kind of issues, political, social issues. And I think that is the essence of the connection right there.

RAZ: What music do you listen to now that gets you excited, that sort of gives you the sense that this can really change the world?

CLIFF: I'm not so sure. But the kind of music that I'm listening to now is music to keep current with what's going on. Someone like Katy Perry, I like her writing because I listen to music as a songwriter. And, you know, I like a lot of her songs. Like "Firework" is a song that I think I, you know, I could write.

RAZ: I got to tell you, Katy Perry is not the one I would have thought that Jimmy Cliff would have picked.

(LAUGHTER)

CLIFF: Right, right. Because she sings about relationships, you know, or Adele, she sings about relationship.

RAZ: Does Katy Perry know that Jimmy Cliff is a Katy Perry fan?

CLIFF: She knows now. Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

RAZ: This has been a pretty remarkable last two or three years for you. You've been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and now you have this new album that is getting incredibly rave reviews. Things are going great for you. How does success now compare to what it was, you know, back in, like, 1972, at the beginning of your career?

CLIFF: There are goals that I had set out for myself. I have accomplished some of them. However, other parts of my goals have not been completed, because the first thing I wanted to be was an actor. I am on my way now to getting the Oscar. I have not done that yet. I am on my way now to making a string of number one hits all over the world. I have not done that yet. But success has different meanings to me.

For example, when someone come up to me and say: You know, I was a dropout in school, and I heard your song "You Can Get It If You Really Want." That song made me go back to school. And now, I am a teacher, and I use your song to my students.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU CAN GET IT IF YOU REALLY WANT")

CLIFF: (Singing) You can get it if you really want.

That, for me, is a big success. So success has different meanings to me.

RAZ: That's reggae legend Jimmy Cliff. His new record is called "Rebirth." Thank you so much. It's been an honor speaking to you.

CLIFF: Thank you very, very much, indeed.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU CAN GET IT IF YOU REALLY WANT")

CLIFF: (Singing) You succeed at last...

RAZ: We've got a video from one of Jimmy Cliff's performances this summer, covering music across his 50-year career. That's at our website, nprmusic.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU CAN GET IT IF YOU REALLY WANT")

CLIFF: (Singing) Win or lose, you've got to get your share, let your mind set on a dream. You can get it, though hard as they seem now. You can get it if you really want...

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