The Immortal Jukebox A 30
‘I never get tired of singing Many Rivers to Cross, and you know why? .. ‘cause I still have many rivers to cross. They’re just different rivers.’ (Jimmy Cliff)
Many rivers to cross.
Many rivers to cross.
Just can’t seem to find our way over.
We are haunted by Waters.
Rivers flow through our imaginations.
As Rivers thirst for the Sea so we thirst for the sound of running water.
There is balm and there is healing in the sound of a flowing River.
The sound and the sight of The River invites movement towards the future.
Which surely lie somewhere downriver.
When you’re lost as you travel along if you can find The River you know you can find your way home or to your new destination.
When only your will keeps you alive stand by The River and resolve to carry on – to cross over and be born again in cool water.
Cross The Rubicon.
Cross The Delaware
Cross The Euphrates.
Cross The Volga.
Cross The Murray.
Cross The Nile, The Niger and The Congo.
Cross The Mackenzie, The Mekong, The Missouri and The Mississippi.
Cross The Lena and The Laune.
Cross The Brahmaputra, The Besós and The Brazos.
Cross The Thames, The Tiber and The Tyne.
Cross The Rhine and The Rhône.
Cross The Rappahannock, The Rio Grande and The Red.
Cross The Acheron, The Lethe and The Styx.
Wade across The Jordan.
Each River has its own song.
And, each of us hears different songs as we listen to The River.
We are all travelling from the Source to The Sea.
Oh, we really don’t know why.
We don’t know why.
But, I guess we have to try.
Have to try.
To cross over.
To Cross Over.
Jimmy Cliff has A Voice.
In the way that Sam Cooke has A Voice.
In the way that Nina Simone has A Voice.
In the way Ray Charles has A Voice.
In the way Van Morrison had A Voice.
It’s A Voice that once heard never leaves you.
A Voice that seems immediately familiar to you yet always capable of making you catch your breathe in surprise at its glory.
A Voice that has the authority of a River in full flow.
A Voice that you find yourself harmonising with in your head as the years and tears flow by.
A Voice that speaks truth about the trials of Life.
A Voice you’ll find yourself turning to when it seems Life has got you licked.
A Voice you’ll cling to when all around, including yourself, call you washed up.
A Voice that will whisper to you in the friendless Night.
A Voice that the lonely know knows loneliness too.
A Voice that will be a guiding Star in the heavens when you’re lost and wandering far from The River.
A Voice that will help you hold on, survive, until you’re ready to stand by The River again.
A Voice that will help you cross the many Rivers you’ll have to cross in Life.
So many Rivers to cross.Embed from Getty Images
Jimmy Cliff was a teenage star of the Jamaican Ska and Rocksteady scenes.
In addition to his obvious talents as a singer he soon showed himself to be a songwriter who had the rare ability to create songs that had the mysterious power and longevity of fables.
Songs like The Harder They Come and You Can Get It If You Really Want are instantly memorable while having a core of wisdom that comes from folk memory that chimes with our immediate lived experience.
Yet, Many Rivers To Cross has an extra dimension.
It’s a song written by a young man with an old Soul.
It speaks to our many defeats yet holds out Hope that these defeats are not final or eternal.
We are born by a River in our little tents and of course we’ve been running ever since.
Running towards Rivet after River after River.
We all have to cross so many Rivers.
It can be a long, long journey from the Source to the Sea.
So many Rivers to cross.
There is redemption and blessing in crossing over The River.
Keep your eyes on the farther ashore and trust that you’ll cross over.
Jimmy Cliff’s ‘Greatest Hits’ should have an honoured place in every collection.
These days I often find myself reaching for his glorious collection from 2012 ‘Rebirth’ which has deeply affecting songs of dignity and grace.