American Routes Shortcuts: Jesse Colin Young

Sep 6, 2019

Jesse Colin Young
Credit American Routes

Jesse Colin Young’s career began in Greenwich Village during the 60’s folk revival. After releasing solo albums, Jesse teamed up with guitarist Jerry Corbitt, keyboardist and guitarist Lowell "Banana" Levinger, and drummer Joe Bauer to form the Youngbloods. Their iconic 1967 hit “Get Together,” originally by Dino Valenti, called for peace and unity. Young moved to the San Francisco area in 1969, but relocated to Hawaii after he lost his house in a fire in 1995. He used music to get through those hard times and suffering from Lyme disease.  His music also increasingly dealt with political disaster, raising concern about the environment and war. Born Perry Miller, Jesse’s dreams of a free life began in Queens, NY, with his father and music at home.



Jesse Colin Young: We always had a piano in the house because my father played. And he would come home sometimes and play classical music to unwind, and we would sing every chance we got. 

Nick Spitzer: Tell me a little bit about how you grew towards some of the folk scene in the city and people that were visiting the clubs. 

JCY: I really think I learned everything I needed to know to live my life the way I wanted to at Andover because I had great teachers. They threw me out for a stupid reason, I mean it was playing the guitar in study hours. 

NS: Oh yeah. 

JCY: So it was the right reason. I worked in a factory for a year and then realized, I need to go back to school, so I transferred to NYU. I had no idea that what was happening in Greenwich Village was there. The buildings that I was attending classes was right on the square. And looking at these scruffy guys sitting around the fountain playing the guitar and thinking to myself, hmm. So after a year, I quit school and I joined them. 

NS: Maybe you could get us from Youngblood the record to forming a band called the Youngbloods. 

JCY: I was a young rebel, very much so. We discovered that there were lots of us in Greenwich Village that were not ready for the status quo and were feeling pretty strange about the idea of being drafted into a war that we didn’t see any sense in, and there we were. We were the Youngbloods. 

NS: The song that of course ultimately pulls the Youngbloods out into the wide world, “Get Together” had a long history of various people trying to do the song in different ways, but ultimately it was your small group that found a sound that made it anthemic for that time.

JCY: Yeah I was in love with that song. We were playing at the Cafe Au Go Go, and our equipment was kept down there, and we could rehearse. It was an open mic, and Buzzy Linhart was on stage singing “Get Together,” and I ran backstage and said, “Man, please, I gotta sing this song.” I somehow knew that “Get Together” was going to be central to my life and part of my life for as long as I was singing. The most powerful audience performance of “Get Together” was right here in New York this past summer. We did a Greenwich Village retrospective show, and this was a younger audience. It was a free show, so it was not a fan audience. And they blew me away. And then some people were holding their fists up, singing “Get Together,” and then I remembered it was the first year anniversary of Charlottesville, and they were saying, “No. We choose love.” 

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