Grateful Dead

Cold Jordan

Lyrics By: Traditional
Music By: Traditional

Oh sinner as you tread on life's journey, take Jesus as your daily guide (note 1)
Though you may feel pure and saintly, without Him walking by your side
But when you come to make the crossing at the ending of his pilgrim's way
If you ever will need your saviour, you will surely need him on that day

Now look at that cold Jordan, look at its deep water
Look at that wide river, oh hear the mighty billows roll
You better take Jesus with you, he's a true companion
Oh I'm sure without him that you never will make it home

That awful day of judgement is coming in the by and by
We'll see our Lord descending in glory from on high
Oh, let us keep in touch with Jesus and in the special love of God (note 2)
And may we ever be called ready when he calls us over Jordan's tide

Now what you gonna do, oh what you gonna say
Oh how you gonna feel when you come to the end of the way?

Played by the Grateful Dead in acoustic sets in 1970, normally with members of the New Riders Of The Purple Sage.

The title "Jordan" used on others' recordings, but it is often called "Cold Jordan" in Grateful Dead setlists.

Most recordings list the song as "traditional." But Gary B. Reid's notes to The Stanley Brothers: The Early Years 1958-1961 say:

"Jordan" is thought by many to be an older traditional song but it was written in 1954 by Fred Rich, a gospel songwriter from northern Georgia who conceived the chorus of the song at the Co-op where he worked in Blairsville, Georgia.

Emmylou Harris's recording on her album "Roses In The Snow" credits it to Fred Rish.
(1) early lyric collections had this line (mis)transcribed as "Oh sinning is a gentilized journey ..." - and quite a number still do.
(2) in the version on Dick's Picks 8, they muddle the end of this verse, repeating the end of the first verse here by mistake.

Cold Jordan