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  • Writer's pictureSimon Rushby

You Can Get It If You Really Want by Jimmy Cliff

Updated: Feb 26, 2021

#listeneveryday 25 Feb 2021

This iconic song is one of four written by Jimmy Cliff that featured on the soundtrack to the 1972 film The Harder They Come, in which Cliff starred. The film is famous for bringing reggae to the attention of the world, and it was enormously successful in Jamaica and seen as one of the Caribbean's greatest movie exports.

Jimmy Cliff first released You Can Get It If You Really Want in the summer of 1970, and Desmond Dekker and The Aces recorded their version only a few weeks later. Both versions made it to number two in the UK charts.

Developing out of local folk music known as mento, the style hugely popular in Jamaica in the 1960s was ska. Influenced by rhythm and blues, this often fast-paced genre was known for its off-beat chords, walking bass and melodic brass riffs. Bands like The Skatalites brought ska to Britain and had a number of mainstream hits.

Dekker and Cliff made their names with a slower, more hard-hitting style known as rocksteady, which evolved into the more commercial reggae. The term probably came from Toots and The Maytals' 1968 hit Do The Reggay which itself came from the Jamaican term 'streggae', meaning ragged. Of course, Jimmy Cliff and Desmond Dekker laid the foundations for perhaps the greatest reggae singer of all, Bob Marley.

More to listen to

Israelites, Desmond Dekker's first UK hit song, topped the charts in 1969.

Here's an iconic ska song: The Guns of Navarone by The Skatalites. British ska band The Specials also released a version of this song.

This live version of I Shot The Sheriff from 1977 ensapsulates Bob Marley's iconic style.

A new #listeneveryday post is published every weekday! Comment below or tweet @SimonRushby with your suggestions for future music.

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