Reggae legend Jimmy Cliff’s career could serve as an encyclopedia of innovation in modern Jamaican music.
But these days, the 64-year-old Cliff is moving forward by looking back, revisiting his early roots through a decidedly punk lens. He performs June 13 at Meijer Gardens.
While reggae is frequently stigmatized as fluffy feel-good music for the cruise ship set, the music is steeped in the brutal poverty and social inequality of Jamaican society. It is natural, then, that the music contains strong social messages, Cliff said.
“Our happiness and celebration of life was this music. At the same time, we were expressing our environment and what was going on. That is why the music is able to touch or balance both sides — happy music, but also touching serious subjects,” Cliff said. “That is exactly how the music was born, where it is coming from.”