Youngbloods – Get Together

Whenever I see a documentary or movie about the sixties this song usually is playing somewhere in it. The Youngbloods charted with this song twice. #62 in 1967 and #5 in 1969.

Many artists including The Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, and The Dave Clark Five covered it. Renewed interest in the Youngbloods’ version came when it was used in a radio public service announcement as a call for brotherhood by the National Conference of Christians and Jews. The Youngbloods’ version, the most-remembered today, was re-released in 1969, peaking at number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100.

From Songfacts.

This song has a very convoluted origin story. It was written as “Let’s Get Together” by Chester Powers, who recorded as Dino Valenti. He died in 1994 at age 57, stricken with a brain mass that required surgery. Raised by carnival performers who did a vaudeville-style act in the off-season, he was constantly on the move. A stint in the Air Force didn’t take, so he tried his hand at music, making his way to Greenwich Village, New York, where the folk scene was taking shape. In the early ’60s, he moved to Los Angeles; he claimed he wrote the song in the summer of 1963 at the estate of the actress Edie Sedgwick, where he was staying. In the florid version of his tale, he was thinking about the power of music, and how he could use it to convey a powerful message: Relax. Smile at each other.

Valenti may have had more pragmatic aspirations, as he was working on songs he could sell or record to get his career going, and “Let’s Get Together” fit the mood of the times.

In 1964, The Kingston Trio became the first to record the song, including it on their album Back In Town (as “Let’s Get Together”). Later that year, the actor Hamilton Camp, who was taking a turn as a folk singer, included it on his album Paths of Victory (as “Get Together”).

In 1965, the California group We Five were the first to release the song as a single, taking it to #31 in the US (as “Let’s Get Together”). This same year, Powers was arrested three times: the first two busts for marijuana possession, the third for speed. In 1966, Jefferson Airplane included the song (as “Let’s Get Together”) on their debut album, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off. The song became a fixture on the San Francisco music scene, with Joni Mitchell and Judy Collins sometimes performing it. This is around the time Powers began serving his one-to-ten-year sentence at Folsom Prison. He got out early in 1967 though a series of legal maneuvers that included a deal with Epic Records as a solo act – with his song making the rounds, the label was hot to have him on the roster. Signing him signified that he was worthy of parole, as he was less of a threat to society. This deal required a lawyer, which Powers paid for by selling the rights to “Get Together” to SFO Music.

Jesse Colin Young, who had been performing the song as a solo artist, released it with his band The Youngbloods in 1967. This release had little impact, peaking at #62 in America in October, somehow missing the Summer Of Love. Powers released his debut solo album (as Dino Valente) in 1968, but didn’t include “Get Together” on the track list (SFO would have earned the royalties).

“Get Together” stayed in the zeitgeist, with covers by Linda Ronstadt, The Sunshine Company, and The Staple Singers in 1968. But it didn’t break through as a hit until 1969, when The National Conference of Christians and Jews distributed it to radio and TV stations to support Brotherhood Week. At the time broadcasters were required to run public service announcements for the public good. Non-profit organizations vied for this airtime with messages that were often preachy (Don’t do drugs!) or unappealing (Have a rash? It could be a sign of something worse.). Brotherhood Week was a fun one, with this catchy tune in the background. These PSAs were very popular, and listeners started calling radio stations to ask about the song. This prompted The Youngbloods record company, RCA, to re-release it, and this time it was an undeniable hit, reaching #5 in September 1969.

When Rolling Stone asked Powers if he regretted selling the song, he answered, “A lot of people say I was stupid for selling all my rights to the song, but for ten years of my life, man, I can write another song.”

Here are the charting versions of the song in America:

1965: We Five (#31)
1967: The Youngbloods (#62)
1968: The Sunshine Company (#112)
1969: The Youngbloods (#5)
1996: Big Mountain (#44)

Other acts to cover the song include Anne Murray, Skeeter Davis, Indigo Girls and Wilson Phillips.

This song was the last of The Dave Clark Five‘s eight Top Ten UK hits, reaching #8 when they recorded it as “Everybody Get Together” in 1970. The backing vocals on their version were done by the students of the Central London School of Speech and Drama. Included amongst the backing vocalists was one Peter Davison who went on to star in the BBC TV series All Creatures Great And Small, 1977-79, and as the fifth Dr. Who, 1982-84. This was the only version of the song to have much impact in the UK.

Early versions of this song were done in a folk style at a medium tempo. The Yardbirds version was slower, with a memorable acoustic guitar intro.

This song has been used in a number of TV shows and movies, notably Forrest Gump, where it was part of a soundtrack that sold over 12 million copies. Other films to use the song include:

Pump Up the Volume (1990)
Radio Flyer (1992)
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
Riding the Bullet (2004)
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)

TV shows include:

Baywatch (“Lost and Found” – 1996)
3rd Rock from the Sun (“Dick on a Roll” – 1998)
Cold Case (“Volunteers” – 2004)
The Simpsons (“Oh Brother, Where Bart Thou?” – 2009)

In 2017, this was used in commercials for Blue Diamond almonds. It also featured in Walmart’s “Many Chairs, One Table” ad showing people of many ethnicities joining together for a meal.

The song’s writer, Dino Valenti (Chester Powers), was friends with the band Quicksilver Messenger Service and wrote “Dino’s Song,” made it onto their debut album. Valenti joined the group in 1969.

Get Together

Love is but a song to sing
Fear’s the way we die
You can make the mountains ring
Or make the angels cry
Though the bird is on the wing
And you may not know why

Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now

Some may come and some may go
We shall surely pass
When the one that left us here
Returns for us at last
We are but a moment’s sunlight
Fading in the grass

Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now

Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now

Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now

If you hear the song I sing
You will understand (listen!)
You hold the key to love and fear
All in your trembling hand
Just one key unlocks them both
It’s there at your command

Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now

Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now

Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now

Right now
Right now

 

Author: badfinger20

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

8 thoughts on “Youngbloods – Get Together”

  1. That’s brought back a memory. In 1970, the eight year old me went into the record shop with my 8/- (about 40p today) to get a single.
    The young bloke behind the counter misheard me and enthusiastically found and presented Canned Heat’s ‘Lets Work Together’.
    I corrected him and he was then most dismissive as he passed over the Dave Clark version of Get Together.

    Liked by 2 people

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