Certain Songs #790: Jimmy Cliff – “The Harder They Come”

Album: The Harder They Come
Year: 1972

I will confess that I don’t think I’ve ever seen The Harder They Come film itself, but the soundtrack album was the second reggae album I ever bought (the first was Catch a Fire, and that was bought just the day prior), and I’m most certainly not the only person for whom this soundtrack was a key reggae album.

And all of these years later, many of the songs remain utter classics, with the key tracks for me being Toots & The Maytals unrelenting “Pressure Drop” and Jimmy Cliff’s title track, the only song on the album written specifically for the film.

Driven by an organ shining harder than the sun and a burbling rolling bass, Jimmy Cliff employs his gorgeous tenor in service of lyrics that were as true as the day he wrote them.

Well the oppressors are trying to keep me down
Trying to drive me underground
And they think that they have got the battle won
I say forgive them Lord
They know not what they’ve done

And of what they’ve done, of course, is assume that just because they oppress, because they lie and because they’re doing everything to keep the populace down and discouraged while enriching themselves at every turn that they’ve won the day.

But of course not.

So as sure as the sun will shine
I’m gonna get my share now of what’s mine
And then the harder they come
The harder they’ll fall, one and all
Ooh the harder they come
The harder they’ll fall, one and all

“The Harder They Come” is such an gorgeous, powerful statement of the underdog fighting back, it’s tempting to apply it to whatever political situation is currently happening, which is what gives it such power. It’s both universal and eternal. One and all.

“The Harder They Come”

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