Jimmy Cliff is the original pioneer of reggae music. When Harry Belafonte took Jamaican music to America and the world in 1956 with the Banana Boat Song (Day-O), reggae was not yet created in the island. Once reggae was created, it was Cliff who first took it beyond the shores of the Caribbean.
While Cliff took reggae to the world in the Movie “The harder they come” in which he starred, he had put his name in the history books three years earlier. In 1969, Cliff wrote and recorded “Many rivers to cross”, undeniably one of the greatest songs to come out of Jamaica.
The song was recently in the finale of the popular Netflix series Daredevil, based on the Marvel Comics character.
“The response on social media I find exciting, especially with the millennial generation,” Cliff told 18 Karat Reggae. “The responses are coming in via Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.”
While Many Rivers to Cross was first released in 1969, it was also featured on the soundtrack for The Harder They Come.
Many Rivers to Cross has been covered by Harry Nilsson, John Lennon, Joe Cocker, Percy Sledge, UB40 and Cher.
While reggae greats like Marley merely sung over words from bible verses, African and Jamaican proverbs, speeches of Marcus Garvey and Haile Selassie; Jimmy wrote the song word for word when he was only 21 years old.
“It came to me at a point in time when I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel to where I’m going, which is common on each person’s journey of life. That’s why this song resonates with everyone and endures, thus it being in TV and movies. It’s a good feeling to be touching the lives of generations to generations,” Cliff explained.
Jimmy Cliff is definitely the first to take reggae on the international stage, even if whites did not accept something coming from a pure Black man. That does not change the facts; however, a pioneer is a pioneer whether or not one of both of his parents is white.