On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.
My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.
I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.
So long as I post everyday (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be…
Jimmy Cliff – Many Rivers to Cross (1969)
Farewell to the UK, dear reader, and back across the ocean we go to Jamaica. I won’t say no to a little more reggae and we have some in the form of Jimmy Cliff, one of Jamaica’s greatest exports. Cliff was just 21 years old when he recorded the song Many Rivers to Cross but youth was no impediment to quality and his work was good enough to land a place on the 1001 Songs list.
Many Rivers to Cross was inspired by Jimmy Cliff coming to the UK as a young man with ambitions of making it big in the music business. In the song, the narrator details a long and often harrowing journey that they are currently on. They have experienced a myriad of disappointments along the way but they go on, mere foolish pride the only invigoration in their aching limbs. It is a lonely journey, the narrator tells us, with their woman having left them but onwards they must go for to stop now would be to admit defeat. There is something to be said clearly for the stubbornness that comes with pride.
I have vague recollections of hearing this song in the past but I cannot place when or where such an occurrence may have been. Jimmy Cliff does not sound like a 21 year old man with his vocals here. His voice emits many years of experience, far more than a young man should have had, but it comes through in some excellent vocal delivery of some beautifully written lyrics. Those early years of struggle would be a thing of the past and Jimmy Cliff, now in his 70s, is a highly respected and honoured musician. The narrator struggling in Many Rivers to Cross actually did make it in the end.
Favourite songs so far:
The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)
Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)
The Who – Substitute (1966)
The Rolling Stones – Paint It Black (1966)
The Beach Boys – God Only Knows (1966)
The Doors – The End (1967)
The Beatles – A Day in the Life (1967)
Procol Harum – A Whiter Shade of Pale (1967)
The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Voodoo Child (Slight Return) (1968)
The Kinks – Days (1968)