Jesse Colin Young
Although a prolific recording artist in the Sixties and Seventies, Jesse went through a drawn-out, painful divorce in the Eighties and only released two albums, although he continued to tour frequently. After his divorce, he remarried and started a new family. On his first new album of the Nineties; Makin’ It Real, Jesse began to chronicle the changes he has gone through and the new loves in his life. Now on Swept Away, his wife (Connie) , his children and his second home (Hawaii) are the continued inspirations for his music.
On the new album, Young chronicles meeting Connie (Swept Away), getting married (“Our Wedding Song”), the honeymoon (Love Is the Moment”), and his first child with her (“Sweet as a Song”), and his love (“Love Is You”). In addition, Jesse explains what it takes to keep making music year after year (“Desire”) and professes his passion for Hawaii (“Waterfall,” “Laimana”) where he spends his most creative time away from “the business of music.” When he divorced, Young also was separated form his two grown children, and two of the songs capture those feelings (the tune “Cheyenne” for his son, and “Street of Broken Dreams” for his daughter, Juli). Jesse reconciled with those children recently and they recorded with him professionally for the first time on the title track. On this album Jesse also covers Tim Hardin’s “Misty Roses” and Danny O’Keefe’s “Catfish”.
Two of the songs, Swept Away, and “Laimana” (an Hawaiian classic from 1920), are sung in the traditional Hawaiian falsetto style, and most of the album features Hawaiian open-style acoustic guitar tunings. Young started as a folk-singer in the early Sixties, and his first album, The Soul of a City Boy, was just him singing and playing acoustic guitar, Although Swept Away contains a few other instruments on some tracks, (bass, drums, sax, flute,, clarinet, violin, percussion), its orientation is acoustic, and Young sees it as a return to the type of music he made when he was first starting out.
Jesse grew up in the New York City borough of Queens listening to rock-n-roll and rhythm-n-blues from an early age. As a teenager, he collected records by Elvis, Buddy Holly, Fats Domino and the Everly Brothers. Soon he was playing drums and guitar. His family, who had moved to Pennsylvania, sent him to a prep school, Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, where he formed his first band, but was expelled for playing electric guitar during the study hour.; He finished his senior year at a local high school and then enrolled at Ohio State University where he formed a three-piece band called The Plague.
He entered his blues/folk period when he began listening to T-Bone Walker, Bill Monroe, Lightin’ Hopkins, John Lee Hooker, Ray Charles and B.B. King. “As soon as I discovered a T-Bone Walker album, my college career was doomed. I told my dad I just wanted to study the blues. He looked at me like I was out of my mind, but he let me do it. I left school to hitchhike through the South like a character in Jack Kerouac’s ‘Dharma Burns’ novel.”
Young moved to New York City in 1962 and was discovered by Bobby Scott, an A&R rep for Bobby Darin’s publishing company. Scott financed and produced The Soul of a City Boy which was released by Capitol in 1963. Young’s guitar was in a pawn shop, so he borrowed one from a friend and recorded the album in four hours.
In 1964, Scott produced Young’s second album, Youngblood, for Mercury Records. It featured John Sebastian on harmonica, Pete Childs on dobro and respected jazz musicians George Duvivier and O.C. Johnson. During this time, Young was a part of the burgeoning East Coast Folk scene that was producing talents like Bob Dylan, Tim Hardin and Simon & Garfunkle (who had been childhood classmates of Jesse’s back in Queens). Young was performing at venues like Club 47 in Cambridge and Gerdes Folk City in New York, and was living in Greenwich Village. He met Boston folk singer Jerry Corbitt, who sat in on some gigs and played 12-string guitar, and soon they became roommates and musical collaborators.
Young and Corbitt formed The Youngbloods with drummer Joe Bauer and guitarist/keyboardist Banana (Lowell Levinger), and became pioneers of the East Coast folk-rock sound. With Young on bass and guitar, and Corbitt on guitar, they shared vocals and began recording some material for Mercury. Their self-titled first album, however, came out on RCA in early 1967 and was produced by Felix Pappalardi (of Cream and Mountain fame). Touring to support the album brought the band to San Francisco during the “Summer of Love” and the hippie movement, and they discovered a strong following there thanks to the fact that the song “Get Together,” the anthem for peace penned by Dino Valenti and included on that debut release, was a regional hit.
After the late-1967 release of their second album, Earth Music on RCA (also produced by Pappalardi) the band decided to relocate to San Francisco. They began recording the pivotal, Charlie Daniels-produced Elephant Mountain album (released by RCA in 1969) and, when Corbitt left three songs into the project, the group continued on as a trio. Also in 1969, RCA re-released “Get Together” as a single (and re-titled the first album after it), and this time it became an international smash, soared into the Top 5 and was certified Gold. With that hit, and its follow-up, “Darkness, Darkness,” The Youngbloods began playing in huge arenas. Bill Graham teamed the act with Frank Zappa and Led Zepplin.
The Youngbloods singed with Warner Bros. Records which gave them their own custom label, Raccoon Records, and a recording console to record live albums (the equipment eventually became the basis for Jesse’s own Owl Mountain Studio). Jess immediately became a producer, engineer and record company executive (artists such as Michael Hurley and Jeffrey Cain were on the Raccoon roster). Jesse also bought property on a ridgetop in Northern California near the Point Reyes National Seashore and bird sanctuary with a view of Elephant Mountain and the San Francisco high-rise in the far distance, and he built a house and his studio there.
In 1970, The Youngbloods released their first live album, Rock Festival on Raccoon; Warner Bros., while RCA put out The Best of The Youngbloods and Mercury released the early recordings as Two Trips. Their second Raccoon/Warner Bros. album, Ride The Wind (1971), also was a live album. Later that year they added bassist Michael Kane while recording Good and Dusty to allow Jesse to play more guitar. After the release of High on a Ridgetop in 1972, the group disbanded, although they also had recorded a never-released country album.
After years of sharing artistic control, Young wanted to return to being a solo artist and develop every aspect of his musical talent. On his first solo album, Together (1972) on Warner Bros., Jesse wrote the songs (It’s a Lovely Day,” “Good Times,” the title tune), sang, played guitar (and bass and sax), produced and engineered. He also made a point of retaining ownership of his mater recordings from that point on (although he also owns his Mercury solo album). For his second Warner Bros., solo album, Song For Juli (1973), he put together his own band for recording and touring. This album contained the hits “Song For Julie” (written for his daughter), “Morning Sun” (inspired by his son Cheyenne) and “Ridgetop” (describing his home). Jesse toured with Crosby, Stills & Nash, and the album went Gold and sold nearly a million copies.
His solo career continued with Light Shine(1974), Songbird (1975), the live On The Road (1976) and Love On The Wing (1977). Young then signed with Elektra/Asylum and released American Dreams (1978). During that time, he toured with Steve Miller, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt and The Eagles.
By the end of the Seventies, Young was anxious to take time off and examine the man behind music. As part of the process, he disbanded his back-up band of nearly eight years. He also became active in political issues, like the Native American movement (note his song “Before You Came”). and environmental causes like the nuclear disarmament benefit shows which he initiated. “No Nukes” culminated in the Madison Square Garden concerts (with Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, Jackson Browne, The Doobie Brothers, Bonnie Raitt and other stars) which became a feature film and live album.
Young’s music continued its transition and in 1982 The Perfect Stranger was released by Elektra/Asylum. It was a concept album co-written with musicians such as Danny O’Keefe, Michael McDonald, Wendy Waldman and Tom Sno; and it featured a duet with Carly Simon (“Fight For It”). Again Young took some time off for himself before returning with The Highway is For Heroes in 1987 on Cypress/A&M Records. Another break in recording was caused by divorce proceedings. But The Best of Jesse Colin Young: The Solo Years was released by Rhino Records in 1991, and Jesse continued to meet his many fans face-to-face by touring frequently in recent years. Jesse’s music also has been embraced by younger listeners in the Nineties thanks to its use in films (“!969” starring Winona Ryder and Keifer Sutherland) and TV shows (“Beverly Hills 90210” in an episode directed by Jason Priestley, who specifically asked to use Jesse’s music). Longtime fans enjoy the themes and phrases that crop up in Jesse’s music again throughout the years and tie his messages together.
Jesse formed his own record company, the appropriately-titled Ridgetop Music, in 1993 for several purposes -- to release his new albums, to regularly re-issue all of his classic albums, to put out some never-before-released material from the Seventies and Eighties, and eventually to release albums by other artists. The label debuted with Jesse’s Makin’ It Real which showed Jesse’s songwriting abilities and singing at the peak of form. The album begins and ends with two anthems telling a new generation to “get together” -- “We Can Make It Real” and “Turning Point.” In 1994,. Ridgetop also re-issued the albums Song For Juli and Songbird digitally remastering them and making them available on CD for the first time. Fans interested in getting on the label’s mailing list to receive a catalog and to find out about future releases are encouraged to write: Ridgetop Music, PO Box 130, Point Reyes, CA 94956; call 800-JC-YOUNG (toll-free); or fax 415-663-9635.
Now, for the first time in his career, Jesse Colin Young has released two albums (Makin’ It Real and Swept Away) in less than a year’s period of time. The incredible songwriting, which was pent up during the late Eighties and early Nineties, has come flooding out, especially with the new lobes and inspiration in Jesse’s life. On his Swept Away album, once again Jesse Colin Young pours out his heart and soul, his hopes and fears, his most intimate feelings, for all the world to hear....for all the world to enjoy.