Big celebration planned for The Harder They Come 45th Anniversary

by Howard Campbell

MIAMI – The 45th anniversary of The Harder They Come may have gone unnoticed this year in Jamaica, where it was filmed and first released, but the family of director Perry Henzell are planning a big celebration to mark its United States debut.

Henzell died from cancer in 2006, but his daughter Justine Henzell has tirelessly overseen the movie’s legacy. She said plans for a series of commemorative events in the US will be unveiled in early 2018.

The Harder They Come opened in the United States in February, 1973, playing in small theaters. It premiered in June, 1972 in Kingston, Jamaica’s capital and drew record crowds.

Starring singer Jimmy Cliff as Ivan, The Harder They Come is based on the exploits of Ivanhoe ‘Rhyghin’ Martin, a notorious gunman who terrorized sections of Kingston during the late 1940s.

Henzell also co-wrote the screenplay, with Trevor Rhone. It accurately portrayed Kingston’s underworld and corrupt operations of the Jamaican music business.

Cliff’s character was a country boy who moved to Kingston seeking a career in music. He turned to crime after failing to break the ‘big man’ system that ran the music industry.

Most of the songs on The Harder They Come soundtrack, such as Wonderful World, Beautiful People, Sitting In Limbo and the title track, were done by Cliff. Others, like The Melodians’ By The Rivers of Babylon and Pressure Drop by Toots And The Maytals, helped introduce reggae to an international audience.

Among the people who saw The Harder They Come for the first time in 1973 was Roger Steffens, a Viet Nam War veteran who lived in Los Angeles.

Jimmy Cliff The Harder They Come celebrates its 45th anniversary

“I first saw The Harder They Come in late June, 1973 while living in Berkeley. The day before I had read an incredible article in Rolling Stone by Michael Thomas, which introduced me (and hordes of other adventurous music fans) to reggae and Rasta. That same day I bought the Wailers Catch A Fire LP, and the next evening ventured to a tiny northside theater that held about 40 people to see the film,” Steffens recalled. “During the chalice scene, everyone in the hall lit up and the screen became obscured by the giant cloud of ‘spliff’ smoke. I bought the soundtrack on the way home at Tower Records, and my life has never been the same since that week.”

Other Americans and Europeans who saw The Harder They Come in the next two years had a similar feeling. Because its release coincided with the rise of Bob Marley, it is credited with reggae’s worldwide emergence in the early and mid 1970s.



South Florida Caribbean News

The SFLCN.com Team provides news and information for the Caribbean-American community in South Florida and beyond.

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