Jesse Colin Young Out of the Darkness

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Submitted by Don Graham

“Come on people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together, try and love one other right now.” When you hear those words the first voice that comes to mind is Jesse Colin Young. Jesse didn’t write this one, Dino Valenti did, but he sure owns it as his is the definitive version. We caught up with Jesse at his home in Aiken, South Carolina.

“Our record ‘Get Together’ was released in 1967 but it wasn’t a hit until ’69. I guess America wasn’t ready for it ‘til then. So to us it was a two year old record when it broke. But it has been a huge part of my life and career. It was a game changer and a life changer.”

The Youngbloods were Jesse on vocals, bass, Jerry Corbitt, vocals,lead guitar, Lowell ‘Banana’ Levinger on electric piano, guitar and Joe Bauer on drums.The band moved to San Francisco in 1967 during the ‘Summer of Love’. Their debut album, produced by Felix Pappalardi (Cream and Mountain) yeilded another minor hit with ‘Grizzly Bear’ written by Jerry Corbitt. “Corbitt and I formed the band up in Cambridge. I was playing at Club 47 up there and somehow a message was passed to me to not go back to house I was staying at cause the guy I was staying with had sold some dope to an undercover Coast Guard agent. I ended up staying with Corbitt ; we picked and jammed and eventually said “Let’s buy an amp and start a band. When he passed in early 2014 it hit me hard. We always talked about doing something together again, we sounded so good vocally, a sweet blend, but it never happened."

Jesse Colin YoungJesse Colin YoungEventually Jesse knew it was time to leave the band and go out on his own. “It was just becoming too much of the same thing and I knew I wanted to grow. I really knew it was time to go when I started saving new songs for myself instead of doing them with band.”

In 1973, Jesse released his critically-acclaimed and commercially successful ‘Song for Juli’ album featuring ‘Mornin’ Sun’, ‘Song for Juli’, and ‘Miss Hesitation’ a little country, a little jazz and a little blues rock. Jesse followed this album with subsequent releases ‘Light Shine’ (1974), ‘Songbird’ (1975), ‘On the Road’ (1975), and ‘Love on the Wing’ (1976).

In 1979, Jesse closed the ‘No Nukes ’concert and movie along with Jackson Browne, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash, while performing “Get Together.” The peace anthem of a generation “Get Together” is an emotion close to Jesse’s heart and all these years later he is still a champion of the vets. “Twenty two vets a day commit suicide in this country, a lot of them Vietnam vets, my generation. Some come to terms only when they’re in their fifties and sixties and some never do while some just see no way out so decide to end it all, the pain, the confusion, the depression. And I know about depression. About 12 years ago I contracted Lyme Disease from a tick bite. Nobody really knew what it was. We had moved to Hawaii in 1995 after our house in California had burnt down. I started getting anxious and depressed my first year in Hawaii, so they put me on medication for the anxiety and depression. I was on antidepressants and nobody even thought about Lyme disease. I took the meds until I moved here to South Carolina, to my wife Connie’s hometown of Aiken. One of Connie’s cousins was working with ILADS (International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society) and she brought home a pamphlet. I read it one day and thought maybe I have Lyme disease? So I flew up to New York and was diagnosed with Lyme’s. They put me on heavy antibiotics and I began to get my brain back, my thinking,but I had stopped performing and playing and writing. It was depressing when something I’d done for 50 years was suddenly gone. Then fate jumped in as it seems to do in my life and I heard about a project called Saratoga Warhorse Foundation, started by a guy named Bob Nevins, a Vietnam veteran.It’s an amazing program they he started because they’ve got a racetrack and racehorses that nobody wants anymore. I think they’re done racing at around three or four years old.  Bob had heard about soldiers and horses bonding together and that the bonding had helped Veterans struggling with PTSD, sleeplessness or suicidal thoughts. They figured it out  that bonding with the horse works like forgiveness. The horses gave the vets unconditional love, no judgment, no condemnation. A lot of these boys had done things they were taught to never do and had to somehow come to terms with it. I loved the idea and told Bob I would help in anyway I could. He said “How about putting on a show, singing some songs.” Well I hadn’t sung or played in 2 1/2 years but I said ‘yes’. Then I went home and started practicing.Then some more magic. I met a couple of young musicians, well actually very special musicians, Peter Duggan, a pianist and Charles Yang a violinist who were part of the Julliard program in Aiken. They came to the house and we jammed on some of my tunes and it was magical. Connie was there and said “Maybe they’ll play the War Horse show with you?”  I asked and they said they’d love to and it all fell together.”

Jesse Colin Young NowJesse Colin Young NowThe concert is available on the DVD, Out of the Darkness. “It really is out of the darkness for all of  us; the horses who are saved from being discarded , the vets who see a light at the end of the tunnel, and for me because I get so much joy from doing this again, what I’m meant to do. Triple win.”

The DVD is a must see for Jesse Colin Young fans and for folks who just like to see some a great performance with some positive vibes. “ I don’t think this generation is as optimistic as we were back in ‘60s. Maybe some of this positive results with War Horse will give everybody hope.” In the words of Jesse’s song ‘Sweet Good Times’ - “They say good times come out of bad times, I’ve seen both kinds in my life.”

Jesse Colin Young is a happy guy. He has the love and support of his beautiful wife Connie, his passion for music is back and he is once again spreading hope and joy and he has purpose in his step and in his life.

Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy and we are all fortunate to be able to share in all of it.

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