Jack Johnson ReImagines Jimmy Cliff's "The Harder They Come"

GRAMMY-nominated singer/songwriter puts a new spin on a reggae classic exclusively for GRAMMY.com's ReImagined series
  • Photo: Emmett Malloy
    Jack Johnson
May 16, 2014 -- 12:43 pm PDT

GRAMMY-nominated singer/songwriter Jack Johnson recently performed an exclusive cover of Jimmy Cliff's "The Harder They Come" at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn., for an installment of The Recording Academy's ReImagined series. Linking GRAMMY history with current music makers, ReImagined is a performance-based series featuring artists interpreting an iconic GRAMMY-recognized song and performances of original music.

"The Harder They Come" is featured on the groundbreaking soundtrack for the 1972 film of the same name starring Cliff. The title track was voted No. 350 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list. Recorded by Cliff (with Toots & The Maytals, Desmond Dekker, the Melodians, Scotty, and the Slickers), The Harder They Come was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame in 2008. In addition to the reggae classic, Johnson performed "As I Was Saying" from his 2013 album, From Here To Now To You, and discussed creating the title for his latest album, putting a new spin on "The Harder They Come" and the significance of performing at the famed Ryman Auditorium.

"Hawaii is an interesting place [because of] the music influences you grow up with there. Reggae is just gigantic," said Johnson. "We wanted to find a way to make ['The Harder They Come'] feel like our style."  

Born on Hawaii's North Shore, Johnson was a professional surfer before studying cinematography at the University of California, Santa Barbara. In 2000 a surfing documentary he directed, Thicker Than Water, featured songs written by him, including "Rodeo Clowns," which was featured on Philadelphia band G. Love & Special Sauce's 1999 album Philadelphonic. Johnson subsequently released his debut album, 2001's Brushfire Fairytales, which cracked the Top 40 on the Billboard 200, followed by 2003's On And On, which climbed to No. 3. In Between Dreams arrived in 2005 and peaked at No. 2 on the strength of the hit "Sitting, Waiting, Wishing," which garnered Johnson a GRAMMY nomination for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. Johnson earned an additional nomination for 2005 for Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals for his collaboration with the Black Eyed Peas on "Gone Going."

Following the release of two chart-topping albums, Sleep Through The Static (2008) and To The Sea (2010), Johnson earned his third No. 1 album with From Here To Now To You, which features 12 acoustic-based tracks written or co-written by Johnson, including "Shot Reverse Shot," "I Got You" and "Change" featuring GRAMMY winner Ben Harper.

Johnson will kick off the latest leg of his international tour in support of From Here To Now To You on May 18 in Gulf Shores, Ala.

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