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Many Rivers to Cross

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Many Rivers to Cross

"Many Rivers to Cross" is one of Jimmy Cliff's most haunting songs. Jimmy Cliff wrote this in 1969. This is one of the few Cliff tracks to use an organ. The rhythm may be lightly syncopated, but this is really a spiritual, and is accompanied by gospel-flavored backing vocalists. The sumptuous organ adds to the church feel, but the guitar which picks its way across the grooves adds a touch of rock and just a hint of blues to the congregation.

Many Rivers To Cross

After years of poorly paid tours of Europe, he remembered crossing the English Channel to Dover in a despondent mood, wondering what more he had to do to gain acceptance. When filmmaker Percy Henzell heard this song, he offered Cliff the lead in his film The Harder They Come. Cliff's acting and soundtrack to the film made him one of the first international Reggae superstars.

Jimmy Cliff


Born James Chambers on April 1, 1948, in Somerton, Jamaica; changed name to Jimmy Cliff, ca. 1962. He began writing songs while still at primary school in St. James, listening to a neighbour's sound system. In 1962 his father took him to Kingston to go to Kingston Technical school.

Jimmy Cliff


In 1968, Cliff released his debut album, the excellent Hard Road, and won the International Song Festival with "Waterfall," a song that became a smash hit in Brazil. The album that he released in 1969, Wonderful World, Beautiful People, included the first release of "Many Rivers to Cross".

His next album, released in 1970, prompted precisely the opposite response: critics lauded Another Cycle, but Cliff’s financial status waned due to slow record sales.

Jimmy Cliff


This limbo in which Cliff’s career has generally suffered, was banished for a brief time in the early 1970s with the success of the low-budget cult film The Harder They Come. Director Perry Henzell, a white Jamaican filmmaker who earned his living filming commercials, had an idea for a film that would introduce audiences to the harsh realities of Jamaican life.

The Harder They Come had a powerful cultural effect. It introduced Cliff to international audiences and cemented his reputation with small but loyal reggae audiences in the United States and Britain well into the future; it also introduced reggae to international audiences.

Jimmy Cliff in The Harder They Come


The soundtrack album released in 1972 in the United. It was issued in February 1973 in North America. It peaked at #140 on the Billboard 200. In 2003, the album was ranked number 119 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

The Harder They Come, ST


In "Many Rivers to Cross" Cliff gives one of the performances of his life. His is the voice of the sufferer, a defiant shout against the weight he's forced to bear, a lost voice calling out in the wilderness, a heartaching cry of spiritual confusion.

Though Jimmy Cliff's version never hit the singles charts, a cover by UK reggae group UB40 reached #16 in the UK in 1983 and one by Cher reached #37 in the UK in 1993.

UB40 - Many Rivers to Cross


In 2008 this song reached the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time ever when a performance by Annie Lennox on Idol Gives Back propelled this song into the chart. It was Lennox's first entry in the Hot 100 for nearly 13 years.

Annie Lennox sings Many Rivers To Cross


It's one of the music industry's great ironies that today, outside of reggae circles, Jimmy Cliff is perhaps better known for his film appearances than his music.


Many Rivers To Cross, lyrics:

Many rivers to cross
But I can't seem to find my way over
Wandering I am lost
As I travel along the white cliffs of dover

Many rivers to cross
And it's only my will that keeps me alive
I've been licked, washed up for years
And I merely survive because of my pride

And this loneliness won't leave me alone
It's such a drag to be on your own
My woman left me and she didn't say why
Well, I guess I'll have to cry

Many rivers to cross
But just where to begin I'm playing for time
There have been times I find myself
Thinking of committing some dreadful crime

Yes, I've got many rivers to cross
But I can't seem to find my way over
Wandering, I am lost
As I travel along the white cliffs of Dover

Yes, I've got many rivers to cross
And I merely survive because of my will
That keeps me alive
I`ve been licked, washed up for years and,
I merely survive because of my pride.

Jimmy Cliff


Last Updated (Saturday, 21 March 2015 16:11)


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