Five Songs That Changed My Life… 5. Many Rivers To Cross by Jimmy Cliff

Five Songs That Changed My Life… 5. Many Rivers To Cross by Jimmy Cliff

I was introduced to Jimmy Cliff by my uncle in the form of the classic The Harder They Come, The Harder They Fall, an incredible movie about Cliff’s struggle to realize his dreams and escape the Jamaican oppressive system of orders. But of all this legend’s songs, one has remained closest to my heart, the ballad of the lonely wanderer, “Many Rivers to Cross.”

In the fall of years ago, I left behind my dream job, security, money, friends, family, and the love of my 22 year old life to go hiking through Europe for 6 months. In the first month, everything that could go wrong did go wrong. I started the trip with a car crash, torn muscles, and broken toe. All my plans fell through and there wasn’t a day in those first weeks that I didn’t think about seriously giving up and going back home. I don’t know what compelled me to stay to this day and finish the trip, but it was the greatest adventure of my life. As I hitchhiked through Moldova, Albania, through the hills of Macedonia, I sang along the roadside this song, again and again.

 

“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…

 

We travel and explore, to challenge and further better ourselves to understand what is happening all around us, to un-narrow our minds to see the bigger picture. Music is the greatest force behind this movement, sitting in a car with someone who can not speak a word of eEnglish who knows all the lyrics to “Yesterday.” These roads change us not because they are easy, but because they are hard, and this song has become and will always be the anthem on that road. I would scream it to the empty plains, to the thousands of stars above me in deserted lands, I have been licked, washed up, lost, I have been all these things and so much more. But there is nothing more to do but grieve, say goodbye, and cross each river, and move forward, one step at a time.


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