A. In April 1973 Bob Marley and the Wailers brought reggae off the island with their international breakthrough album, Catch A Fire – but they weren’t the first to do it. Two months earlier, the Jamaican movie The Harder They Come debuted in the US with an innovative soundtrack of reggae music led by the film’s star, Jimmy Cliff.
Directed by Perry Henzell, the movie follows a young musician’s descent into a life of crime after being manipulated by a crooked record producer. It was the first Jamaican-produced feature film and was a big hit on the island for its authentic portrayal of the experience of black Jamaicans. For those same reasons, it took a while to gain traction in America, where it was shown with subtitles even though the dialogue is in English.
Roger Ebert described is as “a Jamaican version of the standard black exploitation movie,” but with a soundtrack that makes the experience worthwhile. The film found its audience in the midnight movie circuit, where it opened up a whole new world of music to American moviegoers. The soundtrack – including the title song by Jimmy Cliff – is full of reggae luminaries, including The Melodians (“Rivers Of Babylon”), Desmond Dekker (“007 Shanty Town”), The Maytals (“Pressure Drop”) and DJ Scotty (“Draw Your Brakes”).