Lessons from Ivan
Jimmy Cliff (centre) as Ivan in a scene from the 1972 movie Harder They Come.

DAVID Hinds of reggae band Steel Pulse believes The Harder They Come should be shown in Jamaican schools as evidence that social prejudice and corruption can lead to a life of crime.

Hinds, who was born in the United Kingdom to Jamaican parents, first saw the 1972 movie 10 years after it was released. He watched it in Guyana and recalls the gripping dialogue having an instant impact on him.

The singer-songwriter is confident that once today’s youth witness the obstacles Jimmy Cliff’s character Ivan faces as he tries to make it as a singer in a corrupt music business, it would have a similar effect on them.

“No doubt. This should be part of a school’s curriculum when addressing issues concerning social development,” he told the Jamaica Observer.

The Harder They Come opened in Jamaica on June 5, 1972 at Carib cinema in Kingston. In September that year it debuted at the Gaumont State Cinema in London.

Hinds was aware of the Perry Henzell-directed movie but it was not until Steel Pulse’s maiden Caribbean tour when he watched the low-budget drama.

“Unlike many others who actually saw the film on its release date, back in 1972, I happened to have seen it as much as 10 years later. This was during a time I was stranded on tour in British Guyana. I was riveted to the movie throughout its 102-minute presentation; completely surprised that it would have had such an impact on me after [it had] already been exposed to [the] world for a whole decade. To sum it up in one word, The Harder They Come was/is timeless.”

Hinds was born in Birmingham in the British Midlands 66 years ago. His parents were from St Ann and formed part of the mass influx of West Indian migrants to the UK during the 1950s.

While his parents, their contemporaries, and children endured constant racism, Hinds said first-generation black Britons were unaware of the hardships someone like Ivan faced in Jamaica.

“Being born in England of Jamaican parents, we hadn’t experienced that kind of hardship bestowed on Ivan, the character played by Jimmy Cliff. But where our similarities lie is that we both had ‘cowboy’ films as a major influence. We worshipped the gun-touting movie stars of yesteryear — actors like Alan Ladd, Randolph Scott, John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Kirk Douglas, Audie Murphy, Marlon Brando and Burt Lancaster did no wrong in our eyes,” he stated.

Steel Pulse formed in 1975 and made a name in the UK with hard-hitting songs like Ku Klux Klan and Handsworth Revolution. Their 1982 album, True Democracy, was their Jamaican breakthrough.

Visiting Jamaica for the first time in the early 1980s was an eye-opener for Hinds. He recalls hearing only a little reggae on the radio and seeing indifference in certain areas to dark-skinned people.

Fifty years on, David Hinds notes that some of the challenges that pushed Ivan to criminality persist in Jamaica.

The Harder They Come is prophetic in so much as it reflects the gun culture that we are seeing among the ghetto youths of today on the island, and how much time has remained still for those living in such an environment. The lack of proper education is the major root of it all,” he stressed. “On reflection, I give credit to many of the Jamaican reggae artistes of the past and of today who have worked diligently, because many are fortunate to have not taken the road Ivan took in this film.”

Pedro, played by Ras Daniel Heartman, and Jimmy Cliff as Ivan in a scene from The Harder They Come which was shot in St Catherine.
David Hinds
Howard Campbell

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