JIMMY CLIFF’s role in Perry Henzell’s seminal 1972 feature The Harder They Come simultaneously introduced Jamaican reggae to the outside world and catapulted its star into the international spotlight.
Playing talented bad boy Ivan Martin, Cliff is the focal point of Henzell’s effortlessly authentic tale of a country boy corrupted by the big city after getting involved in the drug trade and worse, the music business.
Based on the true story of armed robber/folk hero Wappie King, The Harder They Come is an unflinching portrayal of the lot of Jamaica’s ghetto youth, the ‘sufferers’ at the bottom of the pile – and the amoral establishment which exploits them.
A simply superb soundtrack includes spine-tingling renditions of Many Rivers To Cross, You Can Get It If You Really Want and the film’s theme tune by Cliff, as well as classics by Toots & The Maytals, Desmond Dekker and the Melodians.
“It’s one of those movies that has relevance throughout generations,” says Dr Cliff – he received an honorary doctorate of letters from the University of the West Indies – on a visit to London. “You can still find today a young boy from maybe Glasgow coming to London to make his fortune and, you know ..”