The Harder They Come: The Symbolic Representations of Song In The Movie.

jimmy-cliff-the-harder-they-come-bigThe Harder They Come, a Jamaican movie by Perry Henzell, used music as a symbolic stepping stone to carry out its anti hegemonic message. Two songs especially, stood  out to me in carrying out this agenda; one being the title song’ The Harder They come, and the other,” You Can Get It If You Really Want’. The title song, appealed to me  because it represented so much in terms of speaking towards the problems in society both then and now. The song speaks about being oppressed  or suppressed by religion, as well as being promised accessibility to dreams and goals; “well they tell me of a pie up in the sky, waiting for me when i die” , and being unable to reach them because the upper class not only oppresses  but shows indifference to the poorer class “but between the day your born and when you die, they never seem to hear even your cry” .

The other song,“You can get it if You Really Want”appeared twice: when Ivan was just coming into town happy and hopeful, and when Ivan stole a vehicle and was celebrating within the scene.When first played,it symbolized Ivan’s dreams, and feeling of being within reach of the lifestyle he saw on arrival to town from the country. In contrast, the second time the song was used, he no longer envisioned climbing up the social and economic ladder the way he had intended before. Now he had really ‘got it’ but not in a way he would have expected to at the beginning of the film.

In closing, the film was wonderfully paired with its soundtrack. The songs weren’t separate from the story line as one would believe, but were symbolic and thus had a vital role in the telling of the story.Anything to add? Comment below.

   1972 Island Records 1972 Island Records

Sources: Henzell. P. (Producer). (1972). The Harder They Come. Jamaica: Xenon Pictures and International Films.

Burton. J. (1975) The Harder They Come Cultural colonialism and the American dream. Retrieved from:

The harder they come. (1972). [Web Photo]. Retrieved from:


6 thoughts on “The Harder They Come: The Symbolic Representations of Song In The Movie.

  1. Yes i believe that the song The Harder They Come highlights how one can be oppressed by the upper class as stated in the song “And they think that they have got the battle won I say forgive them Lord, they know not what they’ve done” this meant that these person who was in authority (Mr Hilton) felt like they got away with manipulating and humiliating the lower class.

  2. I liked ‘you can get it if you really want’ as well. The song really jumps at you in the scene which he stole the car. Viewers are able to visualise Ivan’s dreams, and feel what he felt when he was driving around in it. It is only a pity that he didn’t succeed in his former dreams of becoming a recording artiste.

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