Barbara Ellington, Public Affairs Editor
"It's another milestone towards my real goal; I will continue to write better songs and improve my performance but it's good to be recognised for my work." These were the words of veteran singer-actor-songwriter Jimmy Cliff on Monday from New York in an exclusive interview with The Gleaner. He was reacting to winning this year's Best Reggae Album category for his latest album Rebirth. The ceremony was held in Los Angeles on Sunday night.
But Cliff is unhappy that the prestigious award is not presented to winners on the night when the world is watching.
"It would have been better if I were collecting it onstage on Sunday night," he said. Instead, someone picked up the gold gramophone on his behalf. Other nominees in the category this year were The Original Wailers, Sean Paul, Sly & Robbie & The Jam Masters and Toots and the Maytals.
Cliff who has seen recent increased airplay for singing in the popular Volkswagen Super Bowl commercial, expressed appreciation for all his supporting fans over the years.
"The Grammy does not necessarily mean more album sales, better booking fees - the important ingredients for a performer's well-being." But, he is positive that more people will be talking about it in the media and elsewhere and, "I will get more recognition from my peers; for that I am grateful," he said.
Rebirth, Cliff said, has been number one on iTunes for many weeks now and is also doing well in sales. He conceded that the music industry is not what it used to be but he plans to continue reinventing himself and to distribute the album to radio stations in Jamaica, and "if they lock into something special from it, I will consider a local launch".
Asked about the genesis of the VW commercial, Cliff revealed that after receiving his driver's licence in London many years ago, the first car he bought was a Volkswagen Beetle (Bug). "I had been performing a lot with an acoustic guitar and other instruments last year. My Los Angeles agents were approached about my doing the commercial after someone noticed those performances. I saw America's Super Bowl on the same level as our World Cup Football, and since my first car meant a lot to me, I accepted the job," he said.
No stranger to winning a Grammy, this is Cliff's second, from seven nominations. In 1986, just two years into the introduction of the reggae category, his album titled Cliff Hanger took the Grammy. He will be in the island next week to rehearse in preparation for his Asian tour, which kicks off on February 27.