Live: Jimmy Cliff Reclaims His Porkpie Crown At Miss Lily's

by Vivien Goldman

jimmycliff_better.jpg
Kevin Ornelas
Jimmy Cliff with Pat McKay
Miss Lily's Variety
Monday, November 28

Better than: Anywhere else in the world.

"I can't believe it! My first night in New York and I'm getting to see Jimmy Cliff! In a tiny place like this!" The gobsmacked girl reggae journalist over from London had struck the motherlode—an acoustic performance by the great reggae originator and Caribbean cultural messenger, Jimmy Cliff.

The location—Miss Lily's Variety—was as intimate as an old-school Jamaican illegal nightclub, a shebeen, would have been back in the 1970s, when Jimmy Cliff was hitting his second hitmaking stride. In 2011, though, restaurateur Serge Becker has turned the corner where Houston Street meets Sullivan Street into an outpost of Jamaica by opening the scene-y Miss Lily's Favourite Cakes. (The restaurant is the sort that's become so hip, people assume the food must be rubbish, but both the oxtail and raw juice cocktail impresario Melvin Major Jr.'s ginger-y beet and orange juice were superbly old-timey, as was the night's musical selection from DJ Rob Kenner.)

Last night's event doubled as a preview of Miss Lily's Variety, a boutique and gallery space. The crammed crowd of under a hundred old- and-new school fans included arty Villagers galore—thespian Matthew Modine, lensman Ricky Powell and singer Wendy James—as well as dynastic groovers like Chris Blackwell Jr. and the late director of The Harder They Come Perry Henzell's grand-daughter, Drew, old-guard artistic avatars like Julian Schnabel, and Salman Rushdie.

On this night of many firsts, Miss Lily was launching both a juice bar and the online radio station Radio Lily. The broadcast was sweetly, smoothly and skilfully wo/manned by Pat McKay, ready for action in sleek coiled braids, a Rasta t-shirt and trainers; glad-handing the happy crew, Swiss-born Serge, whose family is partly Jamaican, explained, "We heard Jimmy was in town, we were planning [the Radio Lily broadcast] with Sirius anyway, so we decided to just go ahead and do it."

To bless that admirably punky and spontaneous spirit, who better than Jimmy Cliff, a man who not only introduced much of the world to reggae with his classic songs like "Many Rivers To Cross" on the game-changing Harder They Come soundtrack in 1972, but set the rude boy template for all time with his in/vulnerable swagger as the outlaw Rhygin in The Harder They Come, which defined the Caribbean bad-boy outsider.

And now the original Rude Boy was back in town to claim his porkpie crown.

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