The Harder They Come (song)

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"The Harder They Come"
Artwork for German vinyl single
Single by Jimmy Cliff
from the album The Harder They Come
Songwriter(s)Jimmy Cliff
Producer(s)Jimmy Cliff
Jimmy Cliff singles chronology
"Sitting in Limbo"
"The Harder They Come"
"Struggling Man"

"The Harder They Come" is a reggae song by the Jamaican singer Jimmy Cliff. It was first recorded for the soundtrack of the 1972 movie of the same name, in which it is supposed to have been written by the film's main character, Ivanhoe Martin.

"The Harder They Come" has been covered by many artists and was ranked number 350 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of "500 Greatest Songs of All Time".[1]

Jimmy Cliff recording[edit]

In 1969, singer Jimmy Cliff met film director Perry Henzell, who was intending to make a film about a musician who turned to crime. Cliff agreed to take the lead role, and the film was shot over the next two years. During filming, Cliff came up with the line "the harder they come". Henzell thought it would make a good title for the film, and asked Cliff to write and record a theme song for it.[2]

The actual recording of the track, at Dynamic Sounds, was filmed for inclusion in the movie. Cliff wrote the melody, and improvised the lyrics. The musicians were Gladstone Anderson (piano), Winston Wright (organ), Winston Grennan (drums), Linford "Hux" Brown (lead guitar), Ranford "Ranny Bop" Williams (rhythm guitar), and Clifton "Jackie" Jackson (bass).[2]

Joe Jackson version[edit]

"The Harder They Come"
Single by Joe Jackson Band
B-side"Out of Style", "Tilt"
ReleasedJune 1980
GenreReggae, rock
Songwriter(s)Jimmy Cliff
Producer(s)Joe Jackson
Joe Jackson Band singles chronology
"Kinda Kute"
"The Harder They Come"
"Mad at You"

Joe Jackson recorded "The Harder They Come" with his band and released it as a single in 1980. It did not chart in the UK.

Track listing[edit]

Side one
1."The Harder They Come"Jimmy Cliff3:50
Side two
2."Out of Style"Joe Jackson2:55


Chart (1980) Peak
Dutch GfK chart[3] 34
Dutch Top 40[4] 35
Swedish Singles Chart[5] 18
UK Record Business The Singles Chart[6] 67

Rockers Revenge version[edit]

"The Harder They Come"
Single by Rockers Revenge featuring Donnie Calvin
Songwriter(s)Jimmy Cliff
Producer(s)Arthur Baker

"The Harder They Come" was recorded by the group Rockers Revenge in 1983 after their successful cover version of the Eddy Grant song "Walking On Sunshine" the previous year. The single peaked at number 13 in the US Dance Chart and at number 30 in the UK and Irish Singles Chart.

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1983) Peak
US Billboard Club Play Singles 13
Irish Singles Chart[7] 30
UK Singles Chart[8] 30

Madness version[edit]

"The Harder They Come"
Single by Madness
from the album Madstock!
Released16 November 1992 (1992-11-16)[9]
LabelGo! Discs
Songwriter(s)Jimmy Cliff
Producer(s)Clive Langer, Alan Winstanley
Madness singles chronology
"My Girl"
"The Harder They Come"
"Night Boat to Cairo"

"The Harder They Come" was released as a single by English ska band Madness in November 1992 after a successful reunion concert held at London's Finsbury Park. The single was recorded live at the event along with its B-sides. Although in 1992 Madness had success with reissues of "It Must Be Love" and "My Girl", their version of "The Harder They Come" failed to make the top 40 in the UK Singles Chart, peaking at number 44.[10]

Track listings[edit]

CD single 1
1."The Harder They Come"Jimmy Cliff3:27
2."Land of Hope and Glory" (live)Chris Foreman, Lee Thompson3:33
3."Tomorrow's (Just Another Day)" (live)Mike Barson, Carl Smyth3:23
4."Take It or Leave It" (live)Barson, Thompson3:51
CD single 2
1."The Harder They Come"Cliff3:27
2."Embarrassment" (live)Barson, Thompson3:12
3."Grey Day" (live)Barson4:53
4."Baggy Trousers" (live)Graham McPherson, Foreman2:42


Chart (1992) Peak
UK Singles (OCC)[10] 44

Other cover versions[edit]

"The Harder They Come" has also been covered by:


  1. ^ "500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. 7 April 2011. Retrieved 1 October 2015.
  2. ^ a b Myers, Marc (2016). Anatomy of a Song. Grove Press. pp. 211–215. ISBN 978-1-61185-525-8.
  3. ^ "Joe Jackson Band - The Harder They Come (in Dutch)". Retrieved 6 June 2009.
  4. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40, week 34, 1980 (in Dutch)". Retrieved 6 June 2009.
  5. ^ "Joe Jackson Band - The Harder They Come". Retrieved 6 June 2009.
  6. ^ "The Singles Chart 61-100". Record Business. Vol. 3, no. 15. 30 June 1980. p. 13.
  7. ^ "The Irish Charts - All there is to know". Retrieved 29 June 2023.
  8. ^ "The Official Charts Company - Rocker's Revenge Featuring Donnie Calvin - The Harder They Come". Official Charts. Retrieved 6 June 2009.
  9. ^ "New Releases: Singles". Music Week. 14 November 1992. p. 25.
  10. ^ a b "Madness - The Harder They Come". Official Charts. Retrieved 6 June 2009.
  11. ^ "Canned Heat – The Harder They Come (1974, Vinyl)".

External links[edit]