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Trevor Rhone, Jamaican Author, Dies

Terence McArdle, a bluesman who works in the newsroom, is occasionally recruited to help out on musical obituaries. He wrote one today for Jamaican playwright Trevor Rhone.

McArdle writes:

Rhone's greatest impact with American audiences occurred with the screenplay he co-wrote with director Perry Henzel, "The Harder They Come" (1972). The movie became a collegiate midnight movie favorite and made a star of reggae performer Jimmy Cliff.

I think many of a certain age probably remember the soundtrack more than the movie. Jimmy Cliff had not one but three signature songs in the soundtrack, the slow and gospel-flavored "Many Rivers To Cross" (which I'm guessing may have been an answer song to Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come"), "You Can Get It If You Really Want It" and, of course, the title song from "The Harder They Come," which probably resonated with the rebellious students of that era.

That soundtrack album is remembered by many Americans as their first introduction to reggae. As much as I admire Cliff's contributions, it is Desmond Dekker's rock steady song, 007, which really captures the climate of lawlessness in the film:

Ocean's Eleven
And now rudeboys have a go wail
'Cause them out of jail
Rudeboys cannot fail
'Cause them must get bail

Dem a loot, dem a shoot, dem a wail
A Shanty Town
Dem a loot, dem a shoot, dem a wail
A Shanty Town
Dem rude boys out on probation
A Shanty Town
Them a rude when them come up to town
A Shanty Town

For those who need a translation (and I did), rude boys were mostly small-time hoodlums, mostly underage boys, in the slums of Jamaica. Of course, American action movies probably had a big appeal to such youth, hence the reference to James Bond and Ocean's 11. While I can't advocate the song's hooligan sentiments, I have to praise its irrestible groove.

Here is Dekker reprising it late in his career with English keyboardist Jools Holland:

By Adam Bernstein  |  September 17, 2009; 11:36 AM ET
Categories:  Movies  
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