After an all-too-long hiatus, the popular Sunday Gleaner feature 'Story of the Song' returns today. With the series exploring the origins and impact of popular - and sometimes not-so-popular - Jamaican songs, each week's instalment promises to be an eye-and mind-opening journey into the making of tunes that have become part of the unforgettable Jamaican soundtrack.
Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
Jimmy Cliff's Rebel in Me got a second lease on life in Jamaica when it became Noddy Virtue's signature song during the 2005 Digicel Rising Stars season. Then, Virtue was locked in musical battle with Christopher Martin and the high notes in Rebel in Me suited Virtue's voice very well - as did the slow tempo, which he wrung every emotional drop out of.
During that same period Cliff, accompanying himself on keyboards, performed Rebel in Me on the 2005 Beenie Man Summer Sizzle concert in Hayes, Clarendon, in a rare Jamaican appearance - and an even rarer occasion when he was not doing a full concert.
Rebel in Me connected with a generation born long after it was released in 1990 on Cliff's Images album. And, at the outset, the song was created as a single person sought a deeper connection with Dr James Chambers - Jimmy Cliff.
"I have always been a rebellious person against authority," Cliff said. "And rebel against injustice. I have always been that kind of person."
Still, Rebel in Me did not come out of his inner railing against the all-encompassing 'system', or a specific situation.
Cliff laughed as he said "One day a girlfriend of mine said 'I just want bring out the love out of the I y'know'. And just that let me write this song that says 'if the rebel in me ca touch the rebel in you/and the rebel in you can touch the rebel in me/then it will bring out the rebel in me/if the lover in you can touch the lover in me/and the lover in you can touch the lover in me/then it will bring out the love in me'.
"That's what trigger off that song," Cliff said.
The Sunday Gleaner asked Cliff if he was writing from her perspective or his. Cliff replied "If somebody thinks of you that much, that they can bring out the love out of you, they must have seen something - a door that had been closed, that they think they are able to open. When you hear a sound like that, I know. So it's really from my perspective that I am writing.
"Generally, I am not the kind of person who opens that easily. So a sound like that, 'I just want to bring out the love out of you', it's a sound like that can really turn the key a little, to say I can trust this situation to open a little to allow somebody. Because I do want the love to come out," Cliff said.
After Rebel in Me became a hit, Cliff told the woman whose words led to its creation about her role in the song's making.
Rebel in Me was written in New York in the late 1980s and recorded in Jamaica at Anchor studios when it was on Slipe Road. However, before committing it to tape, Cliff said he was singing the song on stage, "just me alone, with the keyboards".
It was first performed while he was on tour in the United States.
"We get encore to go back on and mi jus' tell the band say fi cool, go back on by meself, play it and sing it," Cliff said. The response was "great, and then I knew I had something".
Rebel in Me was recorded with only Cliff and engineer Chris Stanley in the studio. Afterwards, they called in Cleveland 'Clevie' Browne to play drums, with guitarist Rupert Bent following. "That was it," Cliff said.
'I have always been a rebellious person against authority ... And rebel against injustice. I have always been that kind of person.'