When it comes to the top 10 songs by The Youngbloods, odds are “Get Together” will come to mind as it was the group’s only top forty hit when it was re-released as a single in 1969. However, the rock group from Greenwich Village, New York, had five studio albums to its credit, along with three compilation albums and two live albums. There were also two rereleased albums with the first being 1969’s Jesse Colin Young & The Youngbloods and the second being 1988’s The Youngbloods. There were sixteen singles The Youngbloods released between its 1965 debut with “Rider” and 2009’s “All My Dreams Blue.”
Born in Queens, New York City, Jesse Colin Young was technically born Perry Miller on November 22, 1941. Before founding The Youngbloods, he already had two released studio albums under his belt as a folk singer. The first was 1964’s Soul of a City Boy while the second was 1965’s Youngblood. It would be in 1965 that he would meet Jerry Corbitt of Cambridge, Massachusetts, a bluegrass musician who originally hailed from Tifton, Georgia. These two men often jammed together before heading north to Canada as a duo act before officially naming themselves The Youngbloods.
What turned the duo into a trio was the recruitment of another bluegrass musician, Lowell “Banana” Levinger. With the ability to play a multitude of musical instruments, Levinger mostly served as The Youngbloods’ guitarist and pianist. Levinger also brought Joe Bauer, a drummer with a special fondness for jazz music. Now as a four-man band, The Youngbloods built up its reputation as a popular band as it primarily performed in the New York club circuit. The first concert The Youngbloods held was in Greenwich Village, which led to serving as a house band at Cafe Au Go Go and a recording contract with RCA Victor.
In 1967, The Youngbloods recorded and released its first studio album. At first, it was titled The Youngbloods before it was renamed to Get Together. This was followed by a second album released in the year, Earth Music. Then in 1969, it was Elephant Mountain. All three of these albums came from RCA Victor while The Youngbloods was signed to this label. It was during this time “Get Together” was released as a single for the first time in 1967, then again in 1969. Written by Chet Atkins, “Get Together” was a song about bringing people together as a brotherhood that was recorded for the first time by the Kingston Trio in 1964 and would appear on the group’s album Back in Town. Originally, it was titled “Let’s Get Together” before The Youngbloods would popularize it as “Get Together.”
At first, this song was mostly ignored as a single as it was a minor hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 in 1967, causing The Youngbloods to wait a bit longer before grabbing a taste of nationwide stardom. Between a DJ in New York playing this during a brotherhood promotion in 1969 and the National Council of Christians and Jews using the song in commercials, “Get Together” found itself back on the same music chart and became a top ten hit. This put The Youngbloods on the international map. However, over time, the song’s popularity became larger than The Youngbloods as a group as Young and his bandmates weren’t quite able to follow up with another single that would become another big hit. While “Darkness, Darkness” became a popular favorite covered by a long list of recording artists after Jesse Colin Young wrote it, this wasn’t quite the case with The Youngbloods. Released twice as a single by Young’s group between 1969 and 1970, it didn’t win over a nationwide audience nearly as well as “Get Together” did.
No Longer Together
After recording Elephant Mountain, Jerry Corbett left The Youngbloods to pursue a solo career. In 1971, he teamed up with Charlie Daniels to form Corbett & Daniels and the two embarked on a concert tour together as a duo act. After Corbett left in 1969, Levinger rose to the occasion and assumed the role of lead guitarist. He still played the electric piano while The Youngbloods continued as a band. In 1971, Michael Kane performed as bass guitarist who would have two more albums recorded and released by The Youngbloods before it disbanded. First was 1971’s Good & Dusty, a recording that featured “Hippie from Olema,” a song that served as an answer to Merle Haggard’s 1969 classic, “Okie from Muskogee.” Then it was 1972’s High on a Ridgetop before the men went their separate ways. J
oe Bauer, Michael Kane, and Lowell Levinger at one point teamed up as Noggins in 1972 and released Crab Tunes as an album while Young embarked on a successful career as a soloist. Bauer, Kane, and Levinger also ventured into solo careers but Bauer’s run was cut short after dying from a brain tumor at the age of forty years old in 1982.
From 1984 until 1985, Jesse Colin Young, Jerry Corbett, and Lowell Levinger performed as The Youngbloods during a club tour. Joining them at the time was David Perper as the drummer and Scott Lawrence as the keyboardist. As soon as the tour was over, the men disbanded The Youngbloods again, this time for good. While performing live before breaking up the first time, The Youngbloods had a knack for improv that would extend some of their musical material.
When listening to 1970’s Rock Festival and 1971’s Rise the Wind as live albums, these talented men were at their best as The Youngbloods. These, as well as “Get Together,” and Elephant Mountain, were regarded as the group’s best work as recording artists by fans and music critics alike. What made Elephant Mountain a big favorite was it was the first album recorded by The Youngbloods that completely relied on original music material. However, “Get Together” still remained at the very top as The Youngbloods’ signature song as it became one of the most beloved classics of all time.
Top 10 Songs By The Youngbloods
#10 – All Over the World (La La)
Written by Jerry Corbett, “All Over the World (La La)” was a ballad performed by The Youngbloods with Jerry Corbett singing the lead. This was a song of heartache performed as someone missing his love interest who was no longer a part of his life. It still goes on, though, an observation he and the rest of The Youngbloods made as if the feeling of loneliness was a global infection that would consume everyone sooner or later.
This song was part of the tracklist belonging to the group’s debut album, The Youngbloods. As a singer-songwriter, both Jerry Corbett and Jesse Colin Young made a niche out of bluesy folk songs that would often become improvised while performing them live in concert. Even as the two moved on as solo artists, neither strayed far from the musical routes that made The Youngbloods who it was as a band in the first place.
#9 – Rain Song (Don’t Let the Rain Bring You Down)
“Rain Song (Don’t Let the Rain Bring You Down” was written by Jerry Corbitt, Gail Collins, and Felix Pappalardi. It shared the same jug band style The Youngbloods were known for as a band when it first started out in 1965. This was a song that focused on the refusal to let unfortunate circumstances and personal troubles get in the way of living a better life and perhaps achieving your goals. Much of the music material that came from The Youngbloods fused blues and folk together as easy-listening gems.
#8 – It’s a Lovely Day
Written by Jesse Colin Young, “It’s a Lovely Day” was a single that was featured on The Youngbloods’ first live album, Rock Festival. Released as a single in 1971, it failed to become a hit on any of the official music charts. This was an easy-going, blues meets folk love song that featured Young sharing an uplifting moment with his love interest. While it may not have stood out as a fan favorite to earn a spot on the music charts, it did win over a solid fan base who found The Youngbloods were more than one hit wonders in their eyes after “Get Together” became a nationwide hit in 1969.
#7 – The Wine Song
“The Wine Song” was a humorous tune written by Jesse Colin Young that was featured on The Youngbloods’ second studio album, Earth Music. According to the lyrics, the Red Port was the overall favorite as a spirit that was preferred as a means to stay lightheaded as opposed to the consumption of moonshine and whiskey. Designed as a fun tune, “The Wine Song” also made the suggestion getting drunk on wine wasn’t quite as violent as getting drunk on other alcoholic beverages which apparently led to political and social struggles that could have otherwise been avoided.
#6 – On Sir Francis Drake
“On Sir Francis Drake” was a song named after Marin County, California’s Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, and was a bluesy instrumental electric piano waltz composed and performed by Lowell Levinger. Playing bass was Jesse Colin Young as The Youngbloods recorded this song, paying homage to where the band just moved to. Elephant Mountain was the group’s third studio recording that had Young mostly assume the role as the band’s primary songwriter as Jerry Corbitt at this time was technically out of the lineup. He still contributed as guitarist and vocalist for the album’s recording before officially going his own way as a solo artist.
#5 – Grizzly Bear
“Grizzly Bear” was a single The Youngbloods released in 1966 from the group’s self-titled debut album. It was the first hit for the band from New York as it peaked as high as number fifty-two on the US Billboard Hot 100. Originally, Jerry Corbitt took credit for writing this song until it was revealed it was an adaptation from the blues classic “This Morning She Was Gone,” a 1928 recording by Jim Jackson. The song made reference to a dance style known as “Grizzly Bear” that first became popular between 1910 and 1920.
#4 – Sunlight
“Sunlight” was released as a single by The Youngbloods on two different occasions. The first was in 1969 from the album, Elephant Mountain. The second came from the 1971 release of Ride the Wind. Neither release was able to crack into the US Billboard Hot 100 but did chart as high as number sixteen in 1969 on what’s referred to now as the US Billboard Bubbling Under Hot 100. In 1971, it peaked as high as number twenty-three on the same chart. For a great song to listen to while appreciating the blessings life has to offer, “Sunlight” is it. As lead vocalist, Young humanized all the qualities of the bright and warm sun as if it were a woman who won his heart. Now living as a Californian, he and his fellow New Yorkers were so inspired as newcomers to the West Coast that they couldn’t help but write one song after another about it.
#3 – Hippie from Olema No. 5
“Hippie from Olema No. 5” was a song The Youngbloods recorded in 1971 for its fourth studio album, Good & Dusty. It served as the group’s answer to “Okie from Muskogee,” a 1969 country classic recorded and released as a single by Merle Haggard. As far as fans favoring the mix of blues and funk music are concerned, “Hippie from Olema No. 5” was favored as a song, especially among California-based radio stations that played it. By this time, most of the members from The Youngbloods called Macon County their home. The men made it quite clear they were proud to be who they were, what they were, and where they were.
#2 – Darkness, Darkness
“Darkness, Darkness” was a moody song written by Jesse Colin Young that was first recorded by The Youngbloods in 1969. From Elephant Mountain, this wonderfully haunting single failed to crack into the US Billboard Hot 100 when it was released the first time but performed better in 1970 when it was released a second time. Although it only peaked as high as number eighty-six, this became an inspirational favorite for several recording stars who would record their own versions of this song over the years. The most popular version came from Robert Plant as it peaked as high as number twenty-seven on the Mainstream Rock Chart in 2002. One of the highlights was the fiddle intro, which would lead to an emotional performance by Young as he empathized with his friends who were sent overseas to fight in the Vietnam War.
#1 – Get Together
When “Get Together” was released by The Youngbloods for the first time in 1967, it didn’t perform as well on the US Billboard Hot 100 as hoped. It peaked only as high as number sixty-two before it fell off and was mostly forgotten about until a radio DJ named Dan Ingram worked on a brotherhood promotion for his station, WABC-AM. Used for commercials on radio and television by the National Council of Christians and Jews, “Get Together” found itself released again as a single in 1969. This time, it became a big hit and peaked as high as number five on the US Billboard Hot 100. It also became a number six hit in Canada, a number thirteen hit in Australia, and a number ten hit in South Africa. “Get Together” also became certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) after selling over one million copies.
Feature Photo: Herbert S. Gart-management, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
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