Cliff Jones

Jones, Cliff (Clifford Ernest Barnett). Composer, lyricist, writer, b Toronto 26 Jun 1943; BA psychology (Toronto) 1965, MA psychology (Calgary) 1967, B Ed (Toronto) 1994. Jones studied piano 1948-61 at the Royal Conservatory of Music and arranging 1972-5 with Gordon Delamont.

Cliff Jones (Clifford Ernest Barnett). Composer, lyricist, writer, b Toronto 26 Jun 1943; BA psychology (Toronto) 1965, MA psychology (Calgary) 1967, B Ed (Toronto) 1994. Jones studied piano 1948-61 at the Royal Conservatory of Music and arranging 1972-5 with Gordon Delamont. While working 1970-3 as a scriptwriter for CBC TV, he began writing satirical songs for CBC radio and in 1973 composed Hamlet - the Musical, a CBC-commissioned rock musical based on Shakespeare's Hamlet. It was reprised three times under different titles: Kronborg: 1582 in 1975 for the Canadian stage production, which was played in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Charlottetown; the short-lived 1976 Broadway production Rockabye Hamlet, starring Meat Loaf; and the successful 1981 version, Something's Rockin' In Denmark, which ran for over a year in Los Angeles. The show was produced again by the Tapestry Education Initiatives in 2003 for touring in Canadian schools. A second CBC commission, Hey, Marilyn!, based on the life of Marilyn Monroe, was premiered 16 Feb 1975 on CBC radio's 'The Entertainers.' Reworked as a stage musical, it was produced in 1980 at Edmonton's Citadel Theatre. Jones's The Rowdyman, based on the story from the film (later, novel) by Gordon Pinsent, was staged in 1976 at the Charlottetown Festival.

Three other CBC radio musicals followed: Some of My Best Rats are Friends (broadcast in 1979), For the Love of Howard (1984, about millionaire recluse Howard Hughes) and Alexandra: The Last Empress, which was also produced for the Charlottetown Festival in 1988. Jones's Babies was performed in Charlottetown in 1986 and 1987 and at the Centrepointe Theatre in Ottawa in 1991; one of its songs, 'What Are You Going to Do (With All My Love),' was popular in 1986 as recorded by Cal Dodd and Christine Glen.

Of all Jones's musicals Babies has become the most enduring, with several performances being organized over the years, the most recent being in Sydney, Australia in May 2006. From 2000 to 2005, Jones was director of the Show Choir for the Yorkminstrels, a community theatre group in Toronto, for which he also directed and conducted productions of 42nd Street and Hello, Dolly!. He was commissioned by the group to write a musical, Dogs, which he completed in 2005.

Jones, who was music director for children's and or variety series produced by TV Ontario and CTV in the 1970s, has composed the theme songs for CTV's 'Just Kidding' and CBC TV's 'Hangin' In;' wrote scripts for variety specials starring Frank Mills, Anne Murray, and others; and in 1989 and 1990 produced CTV specials for Rita MacNeil. He also worked with Sherri Lewis on Lambchop in the early 1990s though, at this time, he began a hiatus from show business to help troubled teens through drama. After receiving a B Ed from the University of Toronto in 1994, he proceeded to teach for the York Regional Board of Education.

Recordings of Jones's songs include Cliff Jones Six People (Birchmount BM-549), Kidstuff (Rising RILP-101), and Rockabye Hamlet (Rising RILP-103), sung by various artists.


Further Reading

  • MacDonald, Dawn. 'Squeaky clean on Broadway,' The Canadian, 7 Feb 1976

    Cohen, Susan, and John Gault. 'The kid who didn't conquer Broadway,' Maclean's, 8 Mar 1976

    Ledger, Brent. "Alexandra: The Last Empress," National Radio Guide, June 1988

    Winston, Iris. "Composer delivers Orpheus his 'chorus line in nursery'," Ottawa Citizen, 29 Feb 1996