The Harder They Come Soundtrack

Music review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
The Harder They Come Soundtrack Music Poster Image
Collection of classic tracks still best intro to reggae.

Parents say

age 6+
Based on 1 review

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The parents' guide to what's in this music.

Positive Messages

There's a strong moral tone to most of the songs here, whether it's Jimmy Cliff singing about perseverance ("Though they're putting up resistance / Still I know my faith will lead me on") or Desmond Dekker, in "007," and The Slickers, in "Johnny Too Bad," describing the payback that awaits "rudeboys" after their mayhem of robbing, stabbing, looting, and shooting.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The character that emerges in Jimmy Cliff's songs on The Harder They Come Soundtrack is one of great strength, tenacity, and courage in the face of hardship. In some cases, this has strong overtones of religious faith; in others, as in the title song, more pure determination to "get my share now, what's mine." Elsewhere on the album, the characters who behave badly wind up paying for it by the end of the song.

Violence & Scariness

Two songs, Desmond Dekker's "007" and The Slickers' "Johnny Too Bad," describe (in fairly heavy accents) the gleeful mayhem wrought by violent young thugs, aka "rudeboys" -- and also the retribution that soon catches up with them.

Sexy Stuff
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

"Plenty bottle of cola wine" are being consumed at Johnson and Ettie's wedding in "Sweet and Dandy."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this soundtrack to the 1972 Jimmy Cliff movie The Harder They Come, about a reggae singer who turns to a life of crime, offers a collection of classic tracks by some of reggae's most notable pioneers, including the title song, "You Can Get It If You Really Want," "Many Rivers to Cross," "Sitting in Limbo," and "Pressure Drop." While some of today's reggae artists pride themselves on their raunchy songs, there's none of that on this album. A couple of tracks describe violent thugs on a spree, but its consequences quickly catch up with them. Several songs have a theme of perseverance and embattled faith through hard times; others are irresistible, catchy tunes about love gone right or wrong.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 8 and 10-year-old Written byMarion M. August 31, 2012

Perfect reggae

This is an awesome soundtrack I remember listening to as a little girl. I play it in the car with my boys and we all dance and sing to this wonderful music.

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What's the story?

For most non-Jamaicans, the soundtrack to the 1972 Jimmy Cliff movie The Harder They Come was their first introduction to reggae; it made artists previously unknown in the rest of the world wildly popular, and its tracks went on to influence and appear in cover versions by other artists to the present day. The lion's share of the tracks (the title song, \"You Can Get It If You Really Want,\" \"Many Rivers to Cross,\" \"Sitting in Limbo\") belong to the soulful, golden-voiced Cliff, but there are also irresistible hits of the time by Toots and the Maytals (\"Sweet and Dandy\" and \"Pressure Drop\"), Desmond Dekker (\"007\") and The Melodians (\"By the Rivers of Babylon\").

Is it any good?

Countless reggae fans started down that path with THE HARDER THEY COME SOUNDTRACK, and to this day it's hard to imagine a better introduction -- the only possible complaint is that there's no Bob Marley here. There's plenty of stylistic variety, moods from menacing to heavenly to pure fun, and all the artists are in top form. Because the tracks were recorded at different times and anthologized for the album, there are some differences in recording quality, with Cliff's tracks often seeming more slickly produced and his fellow artists' more raw and urgent. It's all great.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how The Harder They Come Soundtrack has been influencing artists ever since it came out. Do you hear traces of it in the music you like?

  • Reggae has a lot of different styles -- which of these songs do you like best? Have you heard versions of these songs by other artists?

  • Do you know if any of these artists are still performing today?

Music details

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