Jimmy Cliff: “Guns of Brixton”
Music legend Jimmy Cliff has had a storied career that has spanned just shy of 50 years. He found stardom as a teenager in his native Jamaica, then the UK and then the world. Cliff’s songs “Many Rivers to Cross,” “Sittin’ In Limbo” and “You Can Get It If You Really Want” have become radio staples, and introduced the world to the sounds of Jamaica. Bob Dylan called Cliff’s “Vietnam” the best protest song ever written. His role as Ivanhoe Martin in the film The Harder They Come (and his outstanding performance of the title song) cemented Cliff as an icon of rebellion.
Cliff has just released his first studio record in seven years. Called Sacred Fire, the five-song EP was produced by Rancid’s Tim Armstrong, a punk-rock icon and longtime fan of Cliff’s. In addition to a new Cliff original “Ship Is Sailing,” Sacred Fire includes three covers including a ranking full-stop version of Rancid’s “Ruby Soho,” Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” and today’s song of the day, Cliff’s version of The Clash’s awesome “Guns of Brixton.”
First written and sung by The Clash’s bass player Paul Simonon, the menacing tune chronicles the life of a South London rude boy that won’t go down easily. It even name-drops Cliff’s The Harder They Come character Ivan. In Cliff’s hands, he trades the original’s punk power for gravitas and authenticity. Armstrong’s rootsy, minimalist production fits perfectly and makes it sound like a song that could have been written in 1972 Kingston rather than 1979 London. It’s a perfect fit for an artist as talented and treasured as Cliff.