I have one horrible summer back in my teens…everyone does, don’t they? I was a teen, early teen, at summer camp. To be blunt I was raped by a fellow counselor I had a crush on actually and the rest of the summer was absolute torture as I stayed much to others confusion years later. (I didn’t dare tell a soul until nearly a decade later out of self-perceived shame.)
Anyhoo, the reason I write is not to purge or revisit those feelings today, rather to pay homage to the magnificent Jimmy Cliff. It’s funny; I was just sitting here also recollecting that the only writing I ever wished to do was to work for The Rolling Stone magazine. It was the only periodical I ever subscribed to well in to my twenties until alcohol and drugs took precedence and I gave up on my dreams.
Back to Cliff.
That summer I found extreme solace in “The Harder They Come” soundtrack. “I’d rather be a free man in my grave than living as a puppet or a slave” and lyrics like these rang true. “The harder they come, the harder they fall” had never been lyrics that had been seared in to my soul before with perhaps the exception of James Taylor and a few others when I was depressed and seeking understanding.
No one and no lyric since then had come close.
“Sitting here in limbo” was also another great one. I remember all of these songs cradled me as I grabbed my knees and hugged tight. There were no arms of my mother and I truly felt ashamed. “This little boy is moving on…” I may not have been a little boy, but I certainly was a little girl who had changed overnight from a little girl, a virgin I might add, to a bitter, surly girl whose “faith will lead me on” was definitely in question. I was holding on for dear life but “sitting in limbo” nevertheless.
Thank God for Jimmy who understood me. I had “many rivers to cross” not only as insight in to my impending future, but an immediate directive as well. It was all hurling at me like a deadly ball of fire which would stop and move slowly enough so I could examine it. I knew I had been altered – naturally not for the better.
It was also on “The Harder They Come” soundtrack where I learned that I must get my fight song. I learned that I could “Get it If You Really Want” and that meant me. I knew Jimmy Cliff spoke the truth “you’ll succeed at last” and that he was speaking to me too. And thank God for that. I was in need of dire help. But “you must try and try and try…you’ll succeed at last.”
Perhaps listening to that soundtrack until I burned down the motor on my Walkman gave me false comfort; maybe I should have left. Still, my decision stands if for no other reason that it’s what I chose. You see, I’m not one to back down and no matter how much he tortured me mentally afterwards, I had Jimmy Cliff cheering me inwards. Sure, there were ions of therapy sessions years afterwards and again, sure I re-write history, or counsel someone else, I would not suggest this path. It was simply mine.
Thank you, Jimmy. I hope someday I can inspire someone, a little iota of a life raft to cling on to, as you have given me, countless times. Or, at least once would do.
God bless you, Mr. Cliff. You will always hold a special place in my heart.
-Wendy K. Williamson www.wendykwilliamson.com