…you can make the mountains ring, or make the angels cry

Although it was a memorable hit for the Youngbloods in 1969, today’s selection was actually written years before, by Chester (Chet) William Powers, Jr., aka Dino Valenti. At the dawning of the decade Powers/Valenti was a folk singer-songwriter who performed side-by-side with the agreeable likes of Bob Dylan, Paul Stookey and Richie Havens (for whom he was an inspiration).

Unfortunately Chester/Dino had once been arrested for possession, which prevented him from acquiring the newly compulsory cabaret license that had been imposed on Greenwich Village entertainers and was forced to leave the circuit.  In 1963 he went west to Los Angeles where Folk-Rock was just beginning to take hold amongst some friends, especially David Crosby and Roger McGuinn. Lamentably, just as he was again beginning to make inroads with the new genre he was arrested for possession of marijuana and, while awaiting trial, was busted again for possession of marijuana and amphetamines that were found in his apartment.

To raise money for his defense after receiving a one-to-ten year sentence at Folsom State Prison, Powers sold the publishing rights to his new song “Let’s Get Together” (for which he had recorded a demo) to the manager of the Kingston Trio.  It was included on their 1964 album, “Back in Town” and although they never released it as a single the trio often performed it live, which brought it to the attention of Michael Stewart of We Five.

Stewart, as you may recall, was the brother of the Kingston Trio’s John Stewart, and the group was looking for a follow-up to their hit “You Were On My Mind”.  We Five’s version  (still entitled “Let’s Get Together”) would be their final hit record, peaking at Number 31 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1965.

Although the Chad Mitchell Trio also recorded the song that year the next truly interesting cover was featured on Jefferson Airplane’s debut album in 1966; then came versions by: Judy Collins, Joni Mitchell, Stone Poneys, The Staple Singers and the Carpenters, with unreleased versions by David Crosby and (yes!) Nick Drake.

In 1967 The Youngbloods released a cover that they retitled “Get Together” which turned out to be a minor hit during that Summer of Love.  Actually it wasn’t until 1969, after their version was used in a PSA for the National Conference of Christians and Jews, that the recording was re-released and peaked at Number 5 on the charts, selling more than a million copies.

And the covers followed once again, by: Ray Stevens (who included it on his “Everything is Beautiful” album), The Dave Clark Five (who reached Number 8 on the UK Singles charts with a version entitled “Everybody Get Together”), The Indigo Girls, Nirvana, Jesse Colin Young (who sang it again…for his “No Nukes” album), Garth Brooks, Wilson Phillips, Anne Murray and Wynona Judd.

Despite it’s appeal for peace and brotherhood, The Youngbloods’ preeminent version was included on Clear Channel Communications’ List of Lyrically Questionable Songs that was distributed to 1,200 of its radio stations in the United States after the September 11 attacks. In that it was in very good company (as noted before) joining the ranks of such other “lyrically questionable” recordings as:  Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World”, The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life”, Jackson Brown’s “Doctor My Eyes”, CCR’s “Travelin’ Band”, Elton John’s “Daniel”, John Lennon’s “Imagine”, Peter and Gordon’s “A World Without Love”, Cat Steven’s “Peace Train” and perhaps someday, on another posting, I’ll include even more….


Get Together

 Love is but the song we sing,

And fear’s the way we die

You can make the mountains ring

Or make the angels cry

Know the dove is on the wing

And you need not know why

C’mon people now,

Smile on your brother

Ev’rybody get together

Try and love one another right now

Some will come and some will 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

C’mon people now,

Smile on your brother

Ev’rybody get together

Try and love one another right now

If you hear the song I sing,

You must understand

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

C’mon people now,

Smile on your brother

Ev’rybody get together

Try and love one another right now

Right now

Right now!

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