Boogiemporium: Jimmy Cliff’s Soundtrack to “The Harder They Come”

Something about babies and reggae. It was recommended in the book Be Prepared: A Practical Handbook for New Dads to play Bob Marley for your child because they BPM of most Bob Marley compositions are similar to that of the beating heart of the mother. Whether or not that’s actually true, it’s difficult to tell. I mean, I guess you could poll a thousand newborns and see what they say. We tried some Bob Marley and, sure enough, it worked…at times. Our biggest success was with Marley’s “Stir It Up.” The song seemed to have a noticeable soothing effect on a young Ellison. Could’ve been purely coincidental, however. Plus, I think that “Stir It Up” has a BPM similar to the heart rate of Mama Cass. Either way, we saw some success with Bob Marley, but sitting around listening to Bob Marley over long periods of time tends to wear you out. When you listen to enough Marley, you start to realize how one dimensional some of his recordings were. He starts becoming like the Barry Manilow of reggae. There’s such familiarity and popularity with his recordings that they wear themselves out pretty quickly.

Hoping to have the same results as we did with Bob Marley, I dug around for other reggae recordings which brought me back to the soundtrack to the film The Harder They Come.

Powered by Jimmy Cliff who contributes four songs to the soundtrack and then filled in by some of Jamaica’s finest, The Harder They Come is a bona fide rocker. In fact, the brighter moments on the soundtrack are provided by anyone but Jimmy Cliff. Scotty’s “Draw Your Brakes” or the Maytals’ two swift and fitting songs “Sweet and Dandy” and “Pressure Drop” are highlights of the album. Perhaps, though, the most poignant lullabies on the record are the Melodians’ “Rivers of Babylon” which is a slow draw that is a proven Sandman for sweet Ellison. With it’s pokey mosey and harmonic qualities, this thing col’ puts her out.

I’d say that my success rate for inducing sleep with The Harder They Come is around 80%. That’s a B-average which for effectiveness in getting a colicky baby to a sleeping state swiftly and soundly is damn good. Not only that, it’s such an enjoyable listen that I’ve probably listened to it over 50 times since Ellison’s arrival just from having it on repeat in the kitchen while Ell rocks gently nearby in the swing. It’s clean family fun and no drug¬†references. The freaking cover looks like a kid’s record except for the illustration of Jimmy Cliff’s character wielding two hand cannons.

The harder they come, the harder they fall…asleep. Don’t I know. Four and a half Dirties for Jimmy Cliff’s The Harder They Come.







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