Sailing

Album: Christopher Cross (1980)
Charted: 48 1

Songfacts®:

  • This tranquil classic evokes sailing on the open sea, leaving any troubles on the shore. In a Songfacts interview with Christopher Cross, he told the story of the song:

    "I was just at home sitting in this cheap apartment, sitting at the table. I remember coming up with the verse and chorus, and the lyrics to the first verse of the chorus all came out. These tunings, like Joni [Mitchell] used to say, they get you in this sort of trance, so all that came out at once: 'It's not far down to paradise...' The chorus just sort of came out.

    So I got up and wandered around the apartment just thinking, 'Wow, that's pretty f--kin' great.' I just thought, 'That's really cool.' So then I sat down and had to try to come up with other stuff to make the rest of the song, but I thought I had something there.

    Then it took about two years before I had a bridge to that song, because the modality of the modal tuning thing, it gets pretty linear, and you've got to be careful. There are writers - I won't mention who - whose songs can get kind of boring because everything's this modality. So I knew I needed to lift the song out of that modality in the bridge and make key changes.

    It took about two years before I came up with the bridge that changes all the keys to where it lifts, but it was a pretty special moment."
  • Cross wrote this song about his memories sailing every summer with a friend in Texas. It became the paragon of "Yacht Rock," a term used to define a form of easy listening music favored by the rich. And what defines yacht music better than a song about sailing?

    Eventually, Yacht Rock caught on with the proletariat, and even spawned a cover band, the Yacht Rock Revue, made up of seven members who do it as a full-time job. "Sailing" is pretty much their "Free Bird," and it has a powerful impact on the crowd. "That song is exceptionally smooth," Nicholas Niespodziani of the band told Songfacts. "Everything we do is pretty smooth, but then there's like, a next level of smooth, that's just so vibed out. A lot of times, you can create excitement by being not excited, and that song is the perfect example of that: It's so chilled out that it gets people pretty amped up."
  • On the Howard Stern radio show, Cross explained that sailing with his friend got him away from the trials and tribulations of being a teenager. Cross said that if the guy had taken him bowling and he enjoyed it, the song could have become "Bowling."
  • Michael Omartian, who was Cross' producer, also contributed keyboards and background vocals to the album. Omartian has worked on many hit songs - he co-wrote "She Works Hard For The Money" and produced "We Are The World" with Quincy Jones. Jay Graydon, who is also a hit songwriter and producer, played guitar on the Christopher Cross album. He singles out Omartian and David Foster as guys who are great to have in sessions. "These guys are just incredible musicians," he told Songfacts. "I'm pretty good at doing string stuff and synth overdubs, and of course guitar overdubs and stuff, but you bring good guys in, then it gets really masterful."
  • Christopher Cross won three Grammy Awards for this song: Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist. The following year he won an Oscar for Best Song with his "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)" from the Dudley Moore movie Arthur. His second album Another Page was released in 1983. That album contained "Think Of Laura," which was his last Top 40 hit. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • This was Christopher Cross' second single, following his #2 charting "Ride Like The Wind." Cross considers "Sailing" a "complete" song and one of the best he's written, but he never thought it would be a hit. "I thought the song was way too introspective," he said in his Songfacts interview.
  • It was anything but smooth sailing for Cross in 2020 after he became one of the first celebrities to get coronavirus, which he picked up in Mexico after performing in Mexico City on March 7, shortly before North America went into lockdown. Cross revealed his diagnosis on April 3, calling it "the worst illness I have ever had." In October, he said he contracted a rare neurological disorder called Guillain-Barre Syndrome, which affects his speech, memory, and movement, likely as a result of the virus.

Comments: 29

  • Rabbi Meyer from Central WisconsinSo many comments about memories generated by this song, so here's another one (well, two) - takes me back to late afternoons in the fall playing practice rounds with Jaro the Wise on golf team our senior year (HS) - while the song was a hit. And after winning their Grammys someone in the band said, "we went out and got drunk; we thought it was our duty." So Geo and I fulfilled that duty the night he'd won the HS band award - Wisconsin drinking age was 18 at that time.
  • Jim from Plymouth UkI was 23 years old when this beautiful song was released, l had just moved down to Cornwall to windsurf and surf the big Atlantic waves. This song perfectly captured my love of the sea and the vibe of Cornwall and still has the same effect. It is a love song to the wind. I still surf and windsurf and when finances allow I intend to sail my yacht around the Pacific until I die, Sailing will go on the odyssey with me.
  • Agnello Noel from MumbaiWho is Carter Burwell?
  • Frank from Okc, OkThe guitar part was done by Eric Johnson, and drums were done by Tommy Taylor- Eric Johnson's drummer. I sat at a bar in South Carolina drinking with Eric, and I said to him, so your guitar style was stolen on this song. Eric had a moment of silence, and he said "lets just say that now we have similar styles." He was young at the time, so he was paid for his style with little recognition. I have heard that the song was written by a local man who cleaned boats after they were out at sea, and he said his thought, while cleaning, was that he would rather be out to sea, sailing. He said that he sold the rights to Christopher Cross. He hid the money from the sale of the song on his property and later died with no one ever finding it. This story was told to me by my brother who knew him.
  • Joey from London UkWhen I heard this song it had just been released and I was visiting the US for the first time. I had picked up a car from the airport and was driving along and turned the radio on and this song started playing. I was immediately hooked and it defined the whole vibe of the US at the time. That was my first impression in America and I'll never forget it.
  • Camille from Toronto, OhYou know how listening to some songs can take you away to a where you always heard it to be? Well, the lyrics to this particular song speak of sailing as a way of beautiful escape. You can hear it and picture it in your mind; and with this song's lyrics, vocals and music, you can feel it. There is a touch of melancholy. That can be interpreted as sailing is an escape but you have to eventually get back to reality. Or it could mean that the person is only sailing in his mind and not actually physically sailing. It's one of the loveliest songs ever.
  • Rodney from Cleveland, TnI was 9 when this song came out. I remember how much I was impacted by it. Truly one of the best songs of the time and still is.
  • Brandonh from Albuquerque, NmI love this song, but I don't know if its just me but I'm pretty sure Chris Brown sampled it in his song "I Can't Let You Go".
  • Bec from Ft. Laud, FlI remember when I first heard this sound, I was leaving to start a new start , and on the plane this is what changed my world. Thanks Chris
  • Matt from Santa Cruz, CaI can still remember hearing this song as a little kid in the morning on my mom's clock radio after a thunderstom that apparently scared me out of my bed in the middle of the night. I just remember the extraordinarily peaceful and protected feeling I had when I heard Sailing, and this song always brings back those great feelings 20+ years later.
  • En from Chicago, IlThe name of the friend he would go sailing with is Al Glascock.
  • Jesus from Heaven, FlThis song is about what the Soul feels, once it has arrived at the KINGDOM OF GOD, that resides WITHIN.

    Enlightenment, Nirvana, Cosmic Consciousness, Oneness, etc.

    "Its not far down to Paradise, atleast is not for me" "If the wind is right you can sail away, and find tranquility" "Ohh, the canvas can do miracles, just you wait and see" "Believe Me"
  • Chip from Stratford, CtWow frank, that's horrible. I have a female friend Lea that is pretty much your situation. We fooled around when we were younger. We both ended up marrying other people. I really miss her. Chip
  • Brian from Cincinnati, OhOne word can describe this song,beautiful
  • Billy from West Unity, OhIt's a pity that every song has to be slammed with "it's about drugs". God where do these people come from. I suppose Think of Laura refers to some kind of gross sexual encounter. George, you have waaaaaaaaaay too much time on your hands. This is the first and only time I've ever heard that Sailing had anything to do with smoking pot.
  • Peter from Seoul, --This song just makes you feel at peace, especially the piano solos. Cross also sounds the same as he did when the song first came out, and that's great!
  • Jane from Austin, Tx'Nsync did a nice cover of this song. and Mr. Cross even plays on it.
  • Frank from Birmingham, AlI love this song. It reminds me of my first girlfriend. She was the first girl I dated after I got my drivers license. We both loved this song, I had it on 8 track. She and I only dated through the summer, we remained friends after we started dating other people. She married a friend of mine, they were married 26 years. She was killed in a automobile accident last month. I will always think of her when I hear this song. She was a wonderful person and will be missed.
  • Lalah from Wasilla, AkGeorge, leave the weed behind and take a ride on a sailboat. If you had ever been sailing you'd know the feeling of a breeze moving your boat across the water. This song definitely conveys a sunny day on a lake with no motors in your ears or exhaust stinking up the air. Lake Travis sounds about right.
  • Sara from Silver Spring, MdThis ranked #1 on VH1's Soft-sational Rock Songs
  • David from South Sf, CaBeautiful song, both words and music. I'm impressed that he not only sang it so well but that he composed it too.
  • Melissa from Windsor, CanadaRegardless of what slang terms are used for smoking marijuana, this song is not about that. I think the nature of the song makes that clear.
  • George from Somewhere, GaThis song is actually about smoking pot. Sailing is a euphemism or slang for smoking marijuana. When he says "wind" it is meaning smoke. And while he actually sings it as "canvas" so that it would not be so obvious and so it would receive radio play, insert the word "cannabis". Listen to all the words!!!
  • Carlos from Brooklyn, NyI interpret this song as being in a state of nirvana or "heaven".
  • Pete from Nowra, Australiathis is a fantastic song, one of those songs when you hear it first up , you know it's gonna be a hit....heard he didn't sound to good live,can anyone confirm????
  • Rob Mcmahon from Woodbury, NjWhile on the Howard Stern show years back, he commented on how he would go with this friend, who was an older guy.
    His Dad never spent any time with him and this song was sorta inspired by that.
  • Chris from Denver, CoI used to live in Austin and heard the same thing, he wrote it about either Lake Travis or Canyon Lake. Chris, Littleton, CO
  • Dimitri from Oklahoma, KsSailing is really tops - I love it lots
  • Don from San Antonio, TxPeople around Austin say it's about lake Travis.
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