You Can Get It If You Really Want

As the hardscrabble hero of the early '70s cult film favorite The Harder They Come, Jimmy Cliff leaves the Jamaican countryside for Kingston, where he hopes to make it as a singer. A series of bad breaks leads him into drug dealing, homicide, and, inadvertently, stardom, which grows exponentially along with his reputation as an avenging gangster (the film continues to inspire some viewers to stick it to the man, at least at a certain video store from which the movie was recently stolen). The Harder They Come also helped seal reggae's popularity in the States, with Cliff's now-classic contributions (including "Many Rivers to Cross" and the film's title track), as well as songs from Jamaican national treasures the Maytals and Desmond Dekker. Cliff's irrepressible sweetness, and the high-steppers ball he puts on with his band, is reason enough to swing by this year's Reggae in the Park concert, which he'll be headlining. Ragga, rocksteady, ragamuffin, Rastafari, and Red Stripe (and semsimilla, in vast quantities) figure into the two-day event, which features supporting acts like OJ Ekemode ("The King of Afrobeat"), the Nigerian All-Stars, and the Itals. Also notable on this year's bill: Cliff contemporaries the Legendary Wailers, whose new CD Psychedelic Souls puts a reggae spin on '60s rock, like the Doors' "Love Her Madly" and the Who's "My Generation." The show begins at noon Saturday (also Sunday -- the Wailers and Cliff perform Sunday afternoon only) in Sharon Meadow, Golden Gate Park, S.F. Admission is $14-25; call 458-1988.

-- Heather Wisner

 
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