Thursday Inspiration #124 The Harder They Come

Respond to this challenge, by either by using the prompt word mine, or going with the above picture, or by means of the song ‘The Harder They Come’, or by going with another song by Jimmy Cliff, or Bob Marley, or anything else that you think fits.  Before Bob Marley, there was Jimmy Cliff.  James Chambers is known as Jimmy Cliff and he was reggae’s first global superstar and he took his stage name because it reflected the heights he planned to scale.  James Chambers grew up in Maroon country, a place up in the largely inaccessible hills of Jamaica surrounded by thick rain forests, where formerly enslaved Africans and their descendants who had gained freedom by escaping formed communities with the Maroon spirit.  He came to Capital City Kingston in 1961 at age 13, in search of a better life, hoping to make a living in music, like many other black youthsSka developed from the American mainland sound of R & B that was combined with the syncopated calypso sound that was developed by Jamaican blacks.  Reggae music came out of ska and rocksteady and it sprang up with the uprising of the Rastafarian faith, which was heavily influenced by black consciousness.  Cliff never identified himself as a Rastafarian, although most other reggae musicians did.

Kingston must not have been an easy place for an unskilled black youth to be plunged into, and having to live in the ghettos and slums of a city where you don’t know anyone and miscellaneous hustlers were always harassing you made this place very dangerous.  Cliff said that it was violent there, but he got used to defending himself, because he encountered political violence all the time and in the two years, from 1961 to 1963, when he wandered the streets of Kingston, as corrupt cops would teargas his house all the time.  Only a fraction of the talented individuals ever managed to make a living at it, but Cliff intended to be a singer, so he supported himself by working on a vegetable truck, living a life of extreme poverty.

Jimmy Cliff starred in and wrote half the music for Perry Henzell’s The Harder They Come, which was Jamaica’s first major film production in 1972.  As Ivanhoe Martin, a country boy new to Kingston who is an aspiring wannabe reggae singer gets hustled out of a sure-fire hit by corrupt producers, and records his first record for $20.  Later he ends up as a murderous ghetto legend, a gangster folk hero that gets gunned down in a blaze of glory at the end of the movie.  The first half is more or less based on Cliff’s own journey from naive country boy to reggae hitmaker, where Ivan is conned out of all of his possessions within minutes of arriving in Kingston.  This movie made Jimmy Cliff a hero almost overnight and it popularized Jamaican music in unprecedented waysThe film also exposed American audiences to some of the darker aspects of Jamaican culture.

The song ‘The Harder They Come’ has a positive message saying that no matter how hard life can be, you can still succeed.  It mentions a pie that is up in the sky which can be obtained, even when people try to prevent you from reaching it.  The message stems from a proverb about people in power having more to lose or a similar adage like, “The bigger the tree, the harder it will fall.”  Luke 1:52 stated that the mighty are brought lower than the lowly, as God drags strong rulers from their thrones and exalts humble people in places of power.  This expression is one of defiance against someone who is seen as your superior and became popular when boxer Robert Fitzsimmons said it in 1902 before he fought a much taller and heavier opponent.  Cliff was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010.

And I keep on fighting for the things I want
Though I know that when you’re dead you can’t
But I’d rather be a free man in my grave
Than living as a puppet or a slave
So as sure as the sun will shine
I’m gonna get my share now, what’s mine

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