Golden celebration in the works
The Harder They Come turns 50 next yearMonday, April 05, 2021
BY RICHARD JOHNSON
Plans are being put into place for the 50th anniversary of the Jamaican cult film classic The Harder They Come.
The film which was written, produced and directed by film-maker Perry Henzel and starred reggae artiste Jimmy Cliff, will mark its golden anniversary next year, having been released in 1972, and the Henzell family is not prepared to make that milestone go unmarked.
According to Henzell's daughter Justine, things are being set up for next year, but she is guarding the details at this time.
“Big things are coming, COVID willing, and while I'm not prepared to share the details right now, I can say it is shaping up nicely as a number of entities will be involved in this celebration of The Harder They Come,” she said.
She noted that a recent acknowledgement of the soundtrack from the film by the Library of Congress in the United States has certainly paved the way for the observances.
“This is huge. This recognition by the Library of Congress most definitely feeds nicely into our whole plans for 2022, and for that we are grateful. This is not just significant for the film; it is significant for Jamaica that this insistution is recognising our work. That's very cool. Bet we will announce the details of the 50th anniversary in the coming months,” Henzell noted.
Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden recently named 25 recordings as audio treasures worthy of preservation for all time based on their cultural, historical or aesthetic importance in the nation's recorded sound heritage.
The recordings selected for the National Recording Registry bring the number of titles on the registry to 575, representing a small portion of the national library's vast recorded sound collection of nearly three million items. The Harder They Come soundtrack is only the second reggae album to be inducted with the first being Burnin' by The Wailers.
“The National Recording Registry will preserve our history through these vibrant recordings of music and voices that have reflected our humanity and shaped our culture from the past 143 years,” noted Hayden.
“We received about 900 public nominations this year for recordings to add to the registry, and we welcome the public's input as the Library of Congress and its partners preserve the diverse sounds of history and culture. The enduring cultural impact of music reveals itself in a variety of ways: Over the passage of time for some songs, through numerous covers inspired by the original, or perhaps from the perennial use of certain music in movies, television, celebrations and on dance floors. Some albums inducted this year into the recording registry demonstrated the power to influence entire genres of music. When Nas released his 1994 hip-hop album Illmatic, it was celebrated for its rhythmic originality and complexity, and its technique has been widely copied since,” Hayden added.
In the case of reggae, The Harder They Come was the first Jamaican-produced feature film, in 1972. The movie soundtrack, released on Island Records, features six songs recorded by Cliff and has been credited with taking reggae worldwide while also presenting other reggae stars like Toots & the Maytals to a global audience
The 25 albums honoured include Janet Jackson's clarion call for action and healing in Rhythm Nation 1814 and joins other groundbreaking sounds of history and culture among the latest titles inducted into the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress, including Louis Armstrong's When the Saints Go Marching In, Labelle's Lady Marmalade, Nas' Illmatic, Kool & the Gang's Celebration, and Kermit the Frog's The Rainbow Connection.
In 1972, reggae singer Jimmy Cliff starred in the first Jamaican-produced feature film, The Harder They Come. Around the time of the film's release, the soundtrack made its way to American audiences and has been credited by Rolling Stone magazine as “the album that took reggae worldwide”. Cliff has six songs on the album, including the title track and the seminal Many Rivers to Cross, which has since been covered by myriad artists, including Cher, John Lennon, UB40, Annie Lennox, and Percy Sledge. While only the title track was recorded specifically for the soundtrack, the album collected numerous reggae stars and presented essential works in the genre to a new global audience. Other reggae pioneers and luminaries appearing on the album include Toots and the Maytals ( Pressure Drop and Sweet and Dandy), Desmond Dekker (OO7 Shanty Town), and The Melodians ( Rivers of Babylon).
The album has appeared on every version of Rolling Stone's Top 500 albums of all time.
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