Sunday Singalong: Many Rivers To Cross

The great Jimmy Cliff in a soulful tune from the film "The Harder They Come."

In 1972, Jamaican singer Jimmy Cliff burst into America with a movie called "The Harder They Come." It is probably the only English movie that required English subtitles. 

It's the tale of a young man who leaves the country, comes to the big city, gets taken advantage of, becomes an outlaw and pays the price. But he manages to record a song and become a legend.

It's a low-budget movie, but a great portrait of a desperately poor culture from which Reggae emerged, and for my money it has one of the best soundtracks ever recorded. Along with Bob Marley and the Wailers, the music in this film is largely responsible for the Reggae explosion of the 1970s. It features a variety of artists, notably Toots and the Mayals and Desmond Decker and the Aces (who had a hit in 1968, "The Israelite").

But the star is Jimmy Cliff, who shines with the title track, "You Can Get It If You Really Want," and this one--"Many Rivers to Cross." It's a soulful wail from a place we've all been one time or another.

Cliff is still enjoying moderate success and just released a new album. His voice and his songwriting skills have never been better. His continued international popularity dates directly from this movie, and these songs.


Kathleen January 28, 2013 at 12:59 AM
Thanks for posting this reminder. Also "Sitting Here in Limbo" was a great song from that film. Apparently Jimmy Cliff is featured in one of the Superbowl commercials next week, with a slightly different take on life.
Mark Thomson January 28, 2013 at 03:44 PM
I saw Jimmy Cliff at Tahoe last summer. There were 5 other bands and about 30-40 people on stage throughout the night. Jimmy was almost certainly the oldest guy on stage, but he put them all to shame with his high energy stage presence and charisma. What a great performer!! He did this song beautifully.
Jojo Potato January 28, 2013 at 07:24 PM
Glad to hear Jimmy is still going strong. I've been sitting here trying to remember the concert date when I saw him and Fela (Ransome Kuti) in the city. Must have been around 1980 or so, based on not having to get a baby sitter. Maybe at the Warfield. A very odd combination with Jimmy singing happy happy and then Fela coming on and pounding out his hatred for government and politicians. But certainly a memorable experience including the still beloved "Lady". "She go say, I be lady O!"


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