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July 2005

H.E.A.R. Honors Jesse Colin Young

Jesse Colin Young began his career performing in the legendary Greenwich Village coffeehouses during the 1960s. He released two solo albums during that period: The Soul of a City Boy (Capital) and Young Blood (Mercury). Italian Music Critic Piero Scaruffi sets an appropriate historical perspective when he says, "Jesse Colin Young was one of the most original singer songwriters of the early 60s. His first record, The Soul Of A City Boy, is infinitely more modern and creative than Dylan's early work, not to mention all the others."

Jesse met guitarist Jerry Corbitt on the New York to Boston folk music circuit and with keyboardist/guitarist Lowell "Banana" Levinger and drummer Joe Bauer they formed The Youngbloods. The band's first recorded songs, such as Hey Babe, foretold the great success and influence they would have in the about-to-explode folk/rock scene. Those early tracks were added to Jesse's solo Young Blood album and are now available on CD as Jesse Colin Young and The Youngbloods. That new sound led to a three-album deal with RCA, where they released, The Youngbloods, followed by Earth Music, and finally Elephant Mountain.

The Youngbloods moved from the east coast to San Francisco after releasing Earth Music, and Jerry Corbitt left the band just as they were starting to record Elephant Mountain. Though the song Get Together first appeared on The Youngbloods album in 1967, RCA re-released it as a single in 1969, after the heartfelt refrain of "Come on people now, smile on your brother" was used as the TV theme for the National Council of Christians and Jews. Get Together became a worldwide Top Ten hit that year, and was followed into the charts by, Sunlight, and Darkness Darkness, both written by Jesse for the Elephant Mountain album, also released in 1969. Having established legendary status with three landmark albums on RCA, the three remaining Youngbloods (Young, Banana and Bauer) signed to Warner Bros. through their own Raccoon Records. They released four albums between 1970 and 1972; the studio recordings, Good & Dusty, and High On A Ridgetop; and two live recordings, Rock Festival, and Ride the Wind.
In March 1972, Jesse Colin Young released his first solo album since before The Youngbloods. That album, Together, on Raccoon/Warner Bros. Records, charted in Billboard's Top Albums. Jesse followed it with another solo album that many critics claim is his masterpiece, Song for Juli, released in September 1973. Song For Juli stayed on the Billboard Top 200 Album chart for nearly a year and was followed onto the chart by Light Shine in 1974, Songbird in 1975, On the Road in 1975, and Love on the Wing in 1976. Each of the aforementioned six Warner distributed JCY solo albums contained breakthrough tracks that received power airplay on FM radio stations across America.

Throughout most of the 70's, Jesse Colin Young helped establish the "No Nukes" movement. Having been involved from the beginning, Jesse closed the 1979 No Nukes concert and movie joined by Jackson Browne, Steve Stills, Graham Nash, and everyone else in attendance singing Get Together. In 1978, Jesse released American Dreams on Elektra Records, featuring the extended American Dream Suite. The second Elektra album, The Perfect Stranger, came out in 1982 and is a collaboration with songwriters Wendy Waldman, Michael McDonald, and Danny O'Keefe plus additional performances by Carly Simon, Timothy B. Schmidt, and Bill Payne.
Through the 80's, Jesse Colin Young continued to tour as a solo artist, often appearing at fundraisers for various organizations, and sometimes performing with original Youngbloods members Jerry Corbitt and Banana. The Youngbloods acclaimed drummer Joe Bauer had sadly passed away prematurely in the early 80's of natural causes. Jesse released The Highway Is for Heroes album on Cypress Records in 1987. Key tracks include the title collaboration with Wendy Waldman and a new version of his tribute song to mentor T-Bone Walker, the T-Bone Shuffle. Jesse Colin Young also recorded a new solo version of Get Together for the 1988 motion picture, 1969, during this period.

In 1993, Jesse and his wife Connie launched their own independent label, Ridgetop Music, from their mountain home in Marin County. They introduced the label by releasing a new Jesse Colin Young album of all original material backed by great musicians, called Makin‚ It Real. Two tracks, Crazy Boy, and Turning Point, received airplay on Triple A (Album Adult Alternative) radio. Jesse's next release was a very personal collection of acoustic songs, 1994's Swept Away. For the single released to radio, Desire, Jesse added percussion and a remix not on the album. Jesse also acquired the rights to his Mercury, Warner Bros, and Elektra albums and began to reissue them through Ridgetop Music. A song from the Elephant Mountain album, Darkness Darkness, was re-recorded during this period in the mid-nineties with acclaimed lead guitarist Larry Mitchell and the rhythm section from Santana at the time. It is available only on the Very Best Of Jesse Colin Young CD. Just as Jesse's music enterprise was establishing itself, a forest fire engulfed the Ridgetop property in October 1995. The family home was completely destroyed and Jesse moved Connie and their two children to Hawaii with the clothes they had on their backs. Ridgetop Music ceased operations.
As part of his recovery from the trauma of the fire, Jesse began having fun again by playing in blues bands and writing songs about his personal survival. He started re-releasing his catalog of albums through independent labels, along with a new CD of live performances from the 90's titled Sweetwater. Around the year 2000, the surviving original members of The Youngbloods (Young, Corbitt, and Banana) reunited in Jesse's recording studio and for the first time all three appear on the track Sunlight (the song originally appeared on Elephant Mountain without Corbitt). Jesse's son Cheyenne and his godson Ethan provided bass and drums for the reunion sessions. The track is only available on the Very Best Of Jesse Colin Young CD. An interesting note for historical purpose is that Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant recorded another song originally on Elephant Mountain, Darkness Darkness, in 2002, and it was nominated for a Grammy as Best Rock Vocal.

Through the early 2000's, Jesse toured in a band with his sons called The New Bloods, sometimes joined by Corbitt or Banana. After a couple years on the road with the boys, Jesse returned to recording. First came his song reflecting on the events of September 11, 2001, titled Aloha E. Then came the elegant acoustic, Songs For Christmas, the first full-length album recorded at his new studio in Hawaii. That CD was followed by his tribute to Hawaii, Living In Paradise, released in September 2004.

Jesse Colin Young has dedicated his life to giving back to the world he and his family live in. He has performed on behalf of American Indians; he has sung in prisons; and he has used solar energy for his concerts. He has appeared in benefits on behalf of organizations ranging from the Dream Foundation to the Kona Pacific Waldorf School, which Jesse and his wife Connie helped to build, and where they both teach music. Jesse Colin Young has always held environmentalism as a must from the time of The Youngbloods to his current endeavors as a performer, teacher and organic farmer. He lives the life and walks the talk. You can learn more about Jesse's organic Kona coffee and 'da Farm in Hawaii at www.jessecolinyoung.com.

2004 David Bean, Big Sur, C

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