Jesse Colin Young urges the country to ‘Get Together’
Jesse Colin Young, whose band The Youngbloods hit paydirt with the single “Get Together,” in 1969, is back on tour because he feels his country needs him.
“I don’t think the country was as polarized (in the 1960s) as it is now,” said Young, who will perform three nights starting Thursday, Oct. 18, at the Egyptian Theatre. “It’s so polluted today.”
Young says those words carefully, even as he had spent that time in the relative bubble of San Francisco.
“The thing was, I didn’t attend many of the violent anti-Vietnam War protests,” he said. “I didn’t see the race riots, and I didn’t see the race riots. Even the white nationalists were so far back in the shadows that those of us who lived in San Francisco weren’t aware of them.”
What Young did see was how The Youngbloods’ “Get Together,” which he said sparked a movement with an ideal of peace that spread across the country.
“I was lucky to find that song, ‘Get Together,’ because it became a path for me,” he said. “In 1967, we played in San Francisco for the first time. People loved the music in a different way in San Francisco than they did in New York, where we were based. They loved the music totally and the music was interwoven in their politics and in their lives.”
“Get Together” was originally released in 1967, and it became a hit only in San Francisco and Seattle. Two years later, the song gained momentum with the Flower Power movement and spread nationally as people started turning against the war, Young said.
“I’m back singing ‘Get Together’ today because people want to hear it,” he said. “I think there are a lot of resisters in my audience who aren’t OK with what’s going on. I think they want to hear music about family and loving the Earth, because like me, they feel like our country is coming apart at the seams.”
Young pointed to the recent confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh as evidence. The conservative judge’s road through the Senate to the highest court in the land was beset by multiple allegations of sexual misconduct. The televised saga divided the nation and was highlighted when Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her 30 years ago, an allegation that was followed by an explosive rebuttal by Kavanaugh.“I think she’s absolutely telling the truth as she remembers it, and she’s a hero for putting herself through hell to do this for her country,” he said. “You saw how she was on the verge of tears through every second, but she stuck it out and persevered. It takes a lot of nerve to put yourself out there.”
Young doesn’t feel Kavanaugh deserved his seat on the Supreme Court, and while he understands Kavanaugh’s claim of memory loss he doesn’t think it excuses the actions described in Ford’s allegations.
“After all the things I have read about him, and all the things that I know about people who drink so much they black out or don’t remember what they do — I had a guitar player like that — Kavanaugh seems like he really doesn’t remember,” Young said. “I don’t want young men to think they can get away with things like this. And in my opinion, that’s what’s happening. They’re telling young men if you drink enough not to remember what you did, then you can do it. And that’s a terrible message.”
Young was also appalled that both Kavanaugh and Ford’s families have received death threats.
“The fringe lunatics on both sides feel free to do this to scare the people into silence,” he said. “That’s not right in any case, whether you believe her or him.”
The singer admires Ford for sticking to her guns.
“As hard as it was for Dr. Ford, she brought a lot of women out with her,” he said. “I bet tens of thousands of women are telling their friends, neighbors and families that they went through the same thing.”
Young will address this issue during his Park City performances with a new song called “For My Sisters,” which he will release as a single at the end of October. The song is culled from the new album, “Dreamers.”
“My wife asked me to write this song, and I did after I watched the Women’s March that took place after Donald Trump was elected,” Young said. “The body language of the women and men who were marching relayed the message that, ‘we won’t take it anymore.’ And that’s the chorus of the song.”
Last week, Young released “Shape Shifters,” the album’s first single, which he also plans on playing at the Egyptian Theatre.
“That song is about the people how on TV twist the truth, and the last line in the song goes, ‘if lies can win, we’re bound to lose,’” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, there are no alternative facts. There are only the facts, half-facts, half-truths and lies. Fox News and all of those talk show hosts are creating another reality.”
Young knows his left-leaning views have made him a target for Trump supporters.
“This album is very political and I’m out here singing about truth,” he said. “So I’m sure to get trolled, but with a government full of lawyers, we all need facts.”
The Park City concerts will be divided into two segments, Young said.
“I’ll play a solo set during the first part of the evening, so I’ll kind of be the opening act for myself,” he said with a laugh. “I’ll play songs that reach back to my folk music days and then throw a couple of those new ones in the set.”
After a short break, Young will return to the stage with his band to finish out the night.
Over the years, Young has seen his audience age even as they bring younger listeners along.
“I love it when people bring their kids to the shows, because it’s marvelous to feel the connection,” he said. “But their kids aren’t little anymore. They’re as old as my son, who is 28.”
Young has performed for more than 50 years, and doesn’t regret his career choice.
“I was playing music out of this blind desire to be able to make a living at something I loved,” he said. “Everything else I tried, I hated, including college, which I tried a few times.”
When asked if his 50-year career has become a burden, Young answered, “It depends who you ask.”
“My spirit says, ‘Bring it on!’ But my body says, ‘What the hell are you doing?’” He said with a laugh. He can laugh because he’s had his share of health problems. In March of 2017, he underwent heart surgery.
“I told them I had a gig in six weeks, and they said they could fix me,” he said. “They were right. I was out of the hospital the day after the surgery, and I’m stronger than I have been in 20 years.”
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Park City Library director Adriane Herrick Juarez hosts the Library Leadership Podcast that helps and inspires librarians across the country to strengthen their libraries.