Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Harder They Come

On the suggestion of BobCat Numero Uno, I am writing about The Harder They Come. I saw this movie in early 1974 at a late night showing in Harvard Square. This was at the beginning of the midnight movie phenomenon that later became very popular because of Rocky Horror Picture Show. I can't remember the name of the theatre, but it was up the street from Harvard Square. Floyd Foose and I ventured in from Floyd's Hotel to see this show.

At the time, Reggae music was pretty unknown in this country. This movie and the subsequent popularity of the soundtrack album did a lot to expose the American public to this kind of music. It was the beginning of a long fascination with reggae music, ganja and the island culture of Jamaica. 

Jimmy Cliff plays the lead in the movie. The plot is loosely based on the story of Rhyging who was a famous Jamaican criminal. In the movie, Jimmy plays a poor reggae singer who tries to make it in the music business, but turns to a life of crime in the marijuana trade instead. It is a very entertaining low budget action movie.

More importantly, the soundtrack is filled with great reggae music. Cliff contributes several original songs including You Can Get It If You Really Want, The Harder They Come, Sitting in Limbo and the Many Rivers To Cross. All of these songs showcase Cliff's soulful singing style as well as the great beat of reggae music.

In addition, Toots and The Maytalls sing Pressure Drop and The Melodians contribute Rivers of Babylon.The record also includes 007 (Shanty Town) by Desmond Decker, which is one of my favorites.

The songs on this album cover the whole spectrum of reggae music of the time. Highlights include Cliff's anthem to hope, You Can Get It If You Really Try as well as his great Many Rivers to Cross. All of these songs give you the feel of the Kingston's poverty, but also of the hope that is contained in the music.

In 1976, I was lucky to see Jimmy Cliff play at Princeton University. It was a very memorable show. I have been listening to The Harder They Come soundtrack for over 35 years. If you don't have it, you should add it to your playlist. Available on iTunes and from Amazon.


  1. Orson Welles theater.... I must have seen it seven times...

  2. You are so right. Great memory. thanks for the comment and thanks for reading.