Many Rivers to Cross

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"Many Rivers to Cross"
Jimmy Cliff - Many Rivers To Cross.jpg
Single by Jimmy Cliff
from the album Jimmy Cliff and The Harder They Come
LabelTrojan Records
Songwriter(s)Jimmy Cliff
Jimmy Cliff singles chronology
"Many Rivers to Cross"
"Wonderful World, Beautiful People"

"Many Rivers to Cross" is a song written and recorded in 1969 by Jimmy Cliff. It has since been recorded by many musicians, including Harry Nilsson, John Lennon, Joe Cocker, Percy Sledge, Desmond Dekker, UB40, Cher, The Brand New Heavies, Eric Burdon & The Animals, The Walker Brothers, Marcia Hines, Toni Childs, Oleta Adams, Linda Ronstadt, Annie Lennox, Bryan Adams, Chris Pierce, Arthur Lee and Jimmy Barnes. It was also performed in the Caribbean by two female musicians, Alison Hinds of Barbados and Tessanne Chin of Jamaica.


Cliff was aged 21 when he wrote and recorded the song in 1969. Cliff stated he wrote the song due to the trouble he was having making it as a successful musical artist after originally finding success in his home of Jamaica, beginning at age 14, before moving to the United Kingdom. He commented, "When I came to the UK, I was still in my teens. I came full of vigor: I’m going to make it, I’m going to be up there with the Beatles and the Stones. And it wasn’t really going like that, I was touring clubs, not breaking through. I was struggling, with work, life, my identity, I couldn't find my place; frustration fueled the song."[1] Regarding the line, "Wandering I am lost, as I travel along the White Cliffs of Dover," Cliff stated, "...that came from the number of times I crossed the channel to the continent. Most of the time it was France but sometimes it was Germany. It was a very frustrating time. I came to England with very big hopes and I saw my hopes fading. And that song came out of that experience."[2]

Song information[edit]

Cliff stated he was working on his second album for Island Records, but held the song back because he did not think a ballad would be appropriate. Cliff waited until he came to New York to mix the record and add overdubs and backing vocals. He was walking from his residence to the studio, which took 15 minutes, and finished composing the song in his head. On the last day of the session, as the union backing musicians were preparing to leave, Cliff asked if he could play a song idea he had. Cliff added, "I started singing, the band came in, and that was it. Once. That was it. And then Chris said, ‘OK, let's put this one in to fill out the album.’"

This is one of the few Cliff tracks to use an organ, which helps to supplement the gospel feel provided by the backing vocalists. Cliff released the song, with production work by Leslie Kong, on his 1969 album, Jimmy Cliff. It was also released on the 1972 soundtrack album for the film The Harder They Come, in which Cliff also starred. Rolling Stone ranked it No. 325 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[1]

The song is featured in the 2013 film Rush,[3] in addition to the TV shows Wilfred, Daredevil and Falling Skies.


Charts (1993) Peak
France (SNEP)[4] 37

UB40 version[edit]

"Many Rivers to Cross"
Many Rivers to Cross.jpg
Single by UB40
from the album Labour of Love
B-side"Food for Thought'"
GenreReggae fusion
LabelDEP International (UK)
Songwriter(s)Jimmy Cliff
UB40 singles chronology
"Please Don't Make Me Cry"
"Many Rivers to Cross"
"Cherry Oh Baby"

"'Many Rivers to Cross'" is the third single by the reggae group UB40 from the album Labour of Love. This single peaked at the number 16 on the UK Singles Chart and the number 48 in New Zealand.

Track listing and formats[edit]

  • UK 7" single[5]
  1. "Many Rivers To Cross" – 3:48
  2. "Food For Thought " – 4:40
  • 7" single (Spain)[6]
  1. "Many Rivers To Cross" – 3:48
  2. "Food For Thought " – 4:40
  • UK 12" maxi-single[7]
  1. A1."Many Rivers To Cross" (Full Length Version) – 4:35
  2. A2."Food For Thought " – 4:40
  3. B2."Johnny Too Bad" (Unexpurgated Version - Not On Labour Of Love) – 5:28
  • Germany 12" single[8]
  1. A1."Many Rivers To Cross" (Full Length Version) – 4:27
  2. A2."Food For Thought " – 4:39
  3. B2."Johnny Too Bad" – 5:29



  • James Brown – drums, syncussion
  • Ali Campbell – vocals, guitar
  • Robin Campbell – guitar, vocals
  • Earl Falconer – bass
  • Norman Hassan – percussion, vocals
  • Brian Travers – saxophones
  • Michael Virtue – keyboards
  • Astro – toasting, rhyming, percussion

Additional personnel


Chart (1983) Peak
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[9] 48
UK Singles Chart[10] 16

Cher version[edit]

"Many Rivers to Cross"
Cher-many rivers to cross s.jpg
Single by Cher
from the album Greatest Hits: 1965–1992
ReleasedJanuary 1993
GenreSoft rock
Songwriter(s)Jimmy Cliff
Cher singles chronology
"Whenever You're Near"
"Many Rivers to Cross"
"I Got You Babe"
Audio sample


Chart (1993) Peak
UK Singles (OCC)[11] 37

Annie Lennox version[edit]


Chart (2008) Peak
Canadian Singles Chart[12] 47
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[13] 80


  1. ^ a b McCormick, Neil (12 July 2012). "Jimmy Cliff interview: 'I still have many rivers to cross'". Retrieved 22 November 2018.
  2. ^ "The Quietus - Features - A Quietus Interview - Many Rivers Crossed: Jimmy Cliff Interviewed". Retrieved 22 November 2018.
  3. ^ "Rush (2013)". Retrieved 22 September 2013.
  4. ^ " – Jimmy Cliff – Many Rivers To Cross" (in French). Les classement single.
  5. ^ Many Rivers to Cross (UK 7-inch Single liner notes). UB40. Virgin Records. 1984. 9.CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  6. ^ Many Rivers to Cross (7-inch Single liner notes). UB40. Virgin Records. 1984. 106016.CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  7. ^ Many Rivers to Cross (UK 12-inch Maxi Single liner notes). UB40. Virgin Records. 1984. 9-12.CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  8. ^ Many Rivers To Cross (European 12-inch Limited Single liner notes). UB40. Virgin Records. 1983. 601 078.CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  9. ^ " – UB40 – Many Rivers to Cross". Top 40 Singles.
  10. ^ "UB40 - Many Rivers To Cross". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 15 October 2011.
  11. ^ "Cher: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved October 29, 2015.
  12. ^ "Annie Lennox - Many Rivers To Cross". Retrieved 15 October 2011.
  13. ^ "Leona Lewis Returns To No. 1 On The Hot 100". Retrieved 15 October 2011.

External links[edit]