MONTEGO BAY, St James — There was a flurry of activity at the Old Hospital Park site in Montego Bay on Thursday as people from all walks of life gathered for the official renaming of Gloucester Avenue in honour of reggae icon and actor, Jimmy Cliff.
It was probably the most fitting site for Jimmy Cliff, whose given name is James Chambers, to be venerated, after all it was where his mother reportedly gave birth to him some 71 years ago, when the old hospital was located there.
There were glowing tributes from speaker after speaker for the Somerton, St James native who is a globally recognised reggae star and actor.
Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett expressed that Gloucester Avenue, popularly called the ‘Hip Strip,’ is aptly renamed, Jimmy Cliff Boulevard.
“Jimmy Cliff is the most significant and celebrated Jamaican that has ever been in the international music and cinematographic sphere. I say that without fear of contradiction, because nobody else has been able to span theatre, big screen, the silver screen as well as the reggae and musical stages like Jimmy Cliff has done. Absolutely no other Jamaican alive or dead. And it is against that background that we honour him here in the parish of his birth and more importantly on the piece of soil on which he was born because he was born right here at that hospital that was located on this spot of ground,” Bartlett said.
But, if Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Olivia Grange has her way, the singer of The Harder They Come and star of legendary Jamaican film of the same name, should also be honoured with a statue.
“I would like to see a statue of Jimmy Cliff in the heart of the city (Montego Bay). We have commissioned statues and mounted statues of our athletes. We started in treating with our culture, a statue of Louise Bennett and so there will be many more statues to come,” Grange told reporters.
She lauded Cliff, who “over his extensive years as an artiste” is “recognised as one of Jamaica’s principal reggae ambassadors”.
“Today, this afternoon, tonight belongs to Jimmy Cliff. Ska and reggae and other genres, the musician of Jamaica, who is the product of the various genres of Jamaican music … a player of several instruments, singer, an actor, star of stage and screen and more than anything else, one of Jamaica’s greatest poets as a songwriter,” Grange remarked.
The unassuming St James native who expressed gratitude to his family members for their unflinching support during his illustrious career, also thanked the Government officials for bestowing him with the honour of naming a road after him.
“Earlier this year I was in the mother country, Africa, and so they honoured me by giving me a piece of land, but I want to say it’s so good to be honoured in the mother country but here in the parish where I was born, it’s highly appreciated,” the legendary singer expressed.
His response was interspersed with songs like Many Rivers to Cross, Hard Road to Travel, My Miss Jamaica, You Can Get It If You Really Want and I can See Clearly Now, that seemingly summarised his musical journey.
Mayor of Montego Bay, Councillor Homer Davis was happy that the entertainment icon was recognised while still alive, noting that too often, iconic figures are only honoured posthumously.
In fact, he called on the Government to introduce a policy to recognise persons who have made sterling contributions to nation building.
“We have several living heroes and heroines and I call on the Government to immediately institute a policy of research … research in terms of ensuring that we have an up-to-date data bank of our people who have made significant contributions to nation building and to ensure that they are recognised and honoured before the move into the great beyond,” Mayor Davis stated.
“Too often we attend funerals and we hear glowing tributes to the person being buried, which were sometimes never spoken publicly during the person’s life.”
Source: It’s now Jimmy Cliff Boulevard