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There used to be this fairly popular band in Helsinki; they might have been called the Quake or the Shake or something similarly vibrant and youthful. They were just as white as the day is long. They played some Jimmy Cliff covers and a few tragically sick and wrong originals that all had something to do with "gahn-yah" and living the good life in "Yah-maica." It's a strange testament to Jimmy Cliff's longevity and international popularity that there was ever a Finnish reggae band-even one that couldn't pronounce "Jamaica" properly-and that the mere mention of Cliff's name could touch off a chain reaction of ill-advised Jamaican accents among ordinarily taciturn Finns, but it also shows up how little most people (Finns, anyway) really know about the man.

For starters, that's Doctor Jimmy Cliff to you, pal: In 1997, Cliff received an honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of the West Indies. Also, he's no Rasta; although he describes his spiritual journey as having embraced Rastafari, Christianity and other forms of religion, Jimmy Cliff converted to Islam in the early 1970s, just when Rastafari was breaking big-time into the international media.

Cliff was already a successful recording artist in his native Jamaica by the time The Harder They Come-the classic reggae movie in which he starred and composed the lion's share of the soundtrack-exploded reggae into the international public eye in 1971. Since then, he's written some of the most enduring reggae classics, recorded a wallful of gold records, toured the world and elsewhere, scored and acted in movies opposite Robin Williams and Peter O'Toole.

Drink in the reggae sounds of Jimmy Cliff, Sunday at the University Theatre..

Jimmy Cliff has done it all. But when we reach him at his Sacramento hotel, he has no problems citing two of his proudest achievements: "There have been quite a few highlight moments in my career," he muses, "but performing in Soweto in 1980-during the apartheid era-was one of the most electric experiences. All races were allowed to come to the concert, and the atmosphere was intense. It was beautiful and intense to be a part of breaking down the apartheid system."

Cliff also beams (sounds like a beam over the phone, anyway) when he talks about the reception that The Harder They Come received upon its 1971 Kingston premiere. "It was a small theater," he chuckles, "built for maybe 2,000 people. And 20,000 people showed up the see the movie. It's good to be appreciated by people all over the world, but I was prouder to be accepted and appreciated among my own."

The subject matter of his latest album, Journey of a Lifetime, ranges from the book of Genesis to a future that grows exponentially less certain as we check each day off the Countdown to 2000 Calendar. Is Jimmy Cliff worried about the Y2K bug?

"Not so worried," he says brightly. "I'm someone who's pessimistic and optimistic at the same time. That's just one of those things we have the resources inside us to correct. We can correct what we've done wrong, and I'm optimistic about that."

Jimmy Cliff plays the University Theatre on Sunday, July 18 at 8 p.m. $26 at all TIC-IT-EZ outlets or call 1-888-842-4830.


I discovered the joys of heavy metal almost accidentally. I was 15 and at a musical crossroads. The incessant freshman year roster of Dead Kennedys and Black Flag was giving way to the Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin albums that my parents never listened to. Then I met Marcin Krudowski.

Marcin was from Poland. The son of a prominent Solidarnosc member, Marcin and his family fled the country in the mid-1980s, and with him he brought a strong hatred of all things Soviet and an equally strong passion for Metallica, Slayer, Iron Maiden, Megadeth and other metal bands.

At first I frowned internally at what I considered an unsophisticated musical genre, brainwashed as I was by the insecure snot-nosed idiots at school sporting mohawks and Minor Threat patches on their obligatory spiked leather jackets.

But a quick listen revealed the truth-not only was the deeper "juhn-juhn-juhn-juhn" metal guitar menace refreshing after the relative whine of punk rock, I was surprised to find the lyrics were just as political and full of non-conformist rage, which was why I liked the Dead Kennedys in the first place.

Soon the transformation was complete-"Metal Up Your Ass" and "Slaytanic Wehrmacht" T-shirts, a white jean jacket and puffy leather high tops were my preferred uniform. I even bought a few cheesy metal mags, which, combined with the devilish CD cover art, is what lead me to purchase Black Sabbath's "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath."

July 18 will be sabbath, bloody sabbath, when Ozzfest rawks the Gorge.

Sabbath's trademark weighty-as-a-barrel-of-lead-Bibles sound combined with Ozzy's (no last name needed) wailing vocals were all I needed to hear-bat eating and puppy thrashing be damned.

My tale is not unique, so expect a steady line of traffic streaming from Missoula on I-90 this Sunday, when Ozzfest '99, including the original Black Sabbath, Slayer and Rob Zombie, stops at the Gorge Amphitheater.

Black Sabbath began their ascent to infamy in 1970, when their self-titled debut album entered the U.K. charts at, no joke, No. 13. Their unique sound was born shortly before, when guitarist Tony Iommi lost the tips of his right-hand fingers in an industrial accident. The lefty guitarist reduced his instrument's string tension and wore make-shift plastic thimbles to ease the pain of pressing the strings to the frets, giving Sabbath's music its beloved sludgy effect.

The band enjoyed huge commercial success for most of the decade, until their frenetic offstage drinking and drugging made the tensions between band members explode. Ozzy quit Black Sabbath for good in 1979, and spent the '80s and '90s detoxifying and pursuing a highly successful solo career.

Now he and the boys are back for what they say is their final tour together, so don your gory T-shirts and shredded jeans, raise your fist and throw up a devil horns sign, and be prepared to straggle home with a sore neck and mangled eardrums.

Ozzfest '99 stops at the Gorge Amphitheatre in George, Washington on Sunday, July 18. Featured acts include the original Black Sabbath, Slayer, Rob Zombie, Primus, the deftones, Godsmack, System of a Down and second stage acts. The metal begins at 11:30 a.m. Tickets are $58 and are available through Ticketmaster at (206) 628-0888.

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