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Meaning of the Song "Let's Get Together" by the Youngbloods

Paul was a student at the University of Wisconsin in the 60s and also served in the Navy during America's involvement in the Vietnam War.

Taken from Woodstock in 1969

Taken from Woodstock in 1969

The 1960s

Whenever I listen to the song "Get Together" ("Let's Get Together") by the Youngbloods, it brings back memories of the 1960s. A major part of my youth was lived during this turbulent decade when I never felt prouder to be an American. There was so much happening both good and bad, and San Francisco seemed to be the center of the new cultural order. In this article, I will comment on one song of the folk-rock group, The Youngbloods, along with a monologue preceding the song. The song, of course, is "Get Together." The monologue and the song itself pretty much sum up what was happening in America and the world in the 1960s.

Get Together by the Youngbloods

One of The 60s Songs "Get Together"

According to Wikipedia, "Get Together" aka "Let's Get Together" was written in the early 1960s by an American singer and songwriter, Chet Powers, aka Dino Valent. "Get Together" was first recorded and released by the Youngbloods in 1967. The tune never made the music charts; however, when it was re-released by the Youngbloods in 1969, the song rose to number five on the hit charts. Basically, the song appeals for peace and brotherhood and talks about the polarity of love versus fear. To understand why this song so fittingly sums up the turbulent 60s, I will first interpret the meaning of the monologue preceding "Get Together," and then I will interpret the lyrics of the song.

Remembering the mid and late 1960s

Monologue Preceding "Get Together"

In the 1969 version of "Get Together," an unknown male speaker gives a short monologue immediately preceding the song. The monologue is taken from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, a book written by Hunter S. Thompson. I have transcribed this monologue which appears below as follows:

"San Francisco in the middle 60s was a special place to be a part of with no explanation. No mix of words, music, or memory can touch the knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time in the world whatever it meant. There was madness in any direction. At any hour you could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right: that we were winning. And that I think was the handle - that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of old and evil not in any mean or military sense. We didn't need that: our energy would simply prevail. We had all the momentum. We were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. So now less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look west. And with the right kind of eyes, you can almost see the high watermark - that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back."

In reflecting on this monologue, I would have to say that, yes, San Francisco in the middle 60s was a special place to be a part of. I first visited San Francisco in the fall of 1967 while serving a military tour at Monterey. At that time the City on the Bay was known for its liberalizing attitudes, and yes, I did experience some of that when I visited the famed "hippie" mecca of the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. There was a new drug culture, changes in popular music, and a relaxation in sexual mores, just to name a few liberalizing attitudes. There was a madness in any direction as reflected by the widespread use of psychedelic drugs like LSD, psychedelic music by such groups as Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead, and the opening of topless and bottomless bars. The youth of America seemed to be shedding its Victorian standards.

The monologue also points out that "There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we (the United States) were doing was right: that we were winning. And that (there was) an inevitable victory over the forces of old and evil." In the middle 1960s, Lyndon Johnson had just been elected president by a landslide. He succeeded President Kennedy following his assassination in November of 1963. While Johnson was president, the U.S. Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which ended segregation and gave African-Americans (Blacks) equal rights with whites. President Johnson's Great Society programs were also passed by Congress. They were aimed at the elimination of poverty and racial injustice in America. Present-day Medicare, Medicaid, and federal education funding are some of the legacies of the Great Society programs today. During the mid-1960s, the United States had also started escalating its role in the Vietnam War. The thinking of the country at that time was that Ho Chi Minh's evil Communists of North Vietnam were trying to overthrow and take control of democratic South Vietnam. If North Vietnam with the assistance of the Vietcong succeeded in doing this, other countries in Southeast Asia like Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Malaysia would also fall to the Communists as in a domino effect. "Better dead than red" was a feeling of the times.

Finally, it is noted in the monologue that if you go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look west, "you can almost see the high watermark - that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back." Since the end of the Korean War in 1953, the United States had not suffered any significant military or domestic setbacks. Starting in 1968 a series of events started to unfold which caused America's wave of momentum to finally break and roll back. One of these events was the Vietcong's Tet Offensive of 1968 which exposed the futility of supporting South Vietnam and winning the war. More and more U.S. soldiers were being killed and along with a corrupt South Vietnam government, there was no end in sight to the war. Other events were the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy which demonstrated that there were still problems with race relations and liberal economic policies.

Lyrics and Interpretation of "Get Together"

The lyrics of "Get Together" are very beautiful and go as follow:

Love is but the song we sing,

And fear's the way we die.

You can make the mountains ring,

Or make the angels cry.

Know the dove is on the wing,

And you need not why.

C'mon people now

Smile on your brother

Everybody get together

Try to love one another right now.

Some will come and some will go

We shall surely pass

When the one that left us here

Returns for us at last

We are but a moments sunlight

fading in the grass

C'mon people now,

Smile on your brother

Everybody get together

Try to love one another right now.

If you hear the song I sing,

You must understand,

You hold the key to love and fear

All in your trembling hand.

Just one key unlocks them both

It's there at your command.

C'mon people now,

Smile on your brother

Everybody get together

Try to love one another right now

Right now

Right now!

What do the lyrics mean to me? Well, first we can see that this song is appealing for peace and brotherly love. Another interesting part of the song shows the polarity of love versus fear. The song is telling us here that fear and love have to be dealt with together. If we can deal with them together, we will be at peace during our brief stay on earth and when we die.

By 1969 when "Get Together" was re-released, there was a lot of fear and hatred not only in the United States but in other places around the world. In the United States, there was a lot of fear and hate towards all Communists, especially the Vietcong and North Vietnamese Communist soldiers who were our enemies. Remember at that time of history, the U.S. was locked in a bitter cold war with the Russian and Chinese Communists. Domestically, there was fear and hatred between the races, and also between the establishment and war protesters as evidenced by racial riots in American cities and the Kent State student shootings on May 4, 1970. In 1969, America needed to get together and try to love one another.

There was also a lot of fear in other places around the world. China was immersed in a Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution led by Chairman Mao and his followers against Mao's enemies who were supposedly following western capitalistic ideas. How can we forget the fear and hatred between the Arabs and the Jews which was manifested in the 1967 War? The song "Get Together", however, undoubtedly is directed towards the United States and primarily concerned with ending the fear, hatred, and killing between the Americans and the Vietnamese Communists.

Questions & Answers

Question: From the song, Let's Get Together, what does the line "...When the one that left us here returns to us at last...." mean?

Answer: I believe the songwriter is talking about our supreme being, God. God created us and at the last judgment, we will see Him.

© 2011 Paul Richard Kuehn

Comments

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on March 22, 2018:

Doug, I agree with your interpretation of the points of the song you mention, This song has moved me and I am very happy it has made you feel wanting to get closer to God.

Doug in Gulfport on March 22, 2018:

Mr. Paul! I enjoyed your article and the posts below. Today there was some turmoil going on around me and I woke with a resolution to the problem. As I was on my way to resolve the issue, I heard Get Together on my Pandora station. Afterwards, I came to work and looked up the meaning of the song and found this site. Now, I can share that several points of the song filled me with the Holy Spirit. One, "When the one that left us here, Returns for us at last." I take this as Christ on the cross. Second, "If you hear the song I sing

You will understand (listen!)". Both parts hit me, filled me. As a 56 year old, I'd say I'm learning to pay attention more in my faith to Get Closer to God; this song, Get Together, appealed to me in this regard. Thanks for sharing yours.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on August 28, 2017:

Yes, I recently read that the song was first recorded by the Kingston Trio. I love their folk songs.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on August 28, 2017:

I greatly appreciate your comment!

Warner Sankman on August 28, 2017:

Actually the song was first recorded by the Kingston in 1964, 3 years prior to the Ypungbloods version.

I love this song and always will on August 28, 2017:

I love this song and always will

Great song for troubling times 2017. Play it play it peace

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on August 27, 2017:

Yes, both sides of America do need to listen to this song. Thanks for commenting and posting.

Claire Smith on August 27, 2017:

OMG! I just posted this song as one BOTH sides of America need to listen to in 2017!

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on August 27, 2017:

Thank you very much for your super comments. This song is appropriate for today and I thank you for sharing it on F.B.

Robert B. Gieske on August 27, 2017:

Have to share this song on F.B.. as it seemes once again fitting turing this troubled time in our (USA) Nation 2017 and on a global basis as well.

I was not sure, before posting, what "fear is the way we die " ment.Being a follower of Jesus Christ and having received his forgiveness for my sin (which seperates us from a loving and caring creator GOD) I have no fear of death (for all have sinned and have fallen short..(all of us) ..but his gift is eternal life through Christ our Lord. So..I want to thank you for your beautifully phrased explanation of this song, the time in which it was written and the explation of the writers use of the word "fear ". CRUSH the HATE.. God Bless you!

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on March 09, 2017:

Thank you for your super comment. It sums up the meaning of this song perfectly!

Extreme Pacifist on March 09, 2017:

"Some will come and some will go

And we shall surely pass

When the one that left us here

Returns for us at last

We are but a moment's sunlight

Fading in the grass."

"C'mon people now

Smile on your brother

Ev'rybody get together

Try to love one another right now."

Maranatha Jesus.

You Left us here, please return for us at last.

Until You return for us, we will try to love each other.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on April 13, 2016:

Thank you very much for your awesome comments, Carmen. I couldn't agree more with them. It is necessary for people all over the world to "get together, right now."

Carmen on April 12, 2016:

Duncan...

I believe you have brought to light the inside edition of all the other comments. In other words; the answer. Yes, all the others call attention to the turbulence of the 60's, but the call then and now is still peace.

Who would they be referencing here?

"Some will come and some will go

And we shall surely pass

When the one that left us here

Returns for us at last"

I believe they mean Jesus. "...Peace be with you"

John 20:19ff

He said it to a room full of frightened disciples, hiding from the political and military power of the world at that moment. If they could kill Jesus, the one who mended the broken, filled eyes with sight, filled ears with sound, filled limbs with life, calmed the sea, and raised the dead to life; they could kill his disciples. Yet Jesus comes; much needed, but uninvited, "Peace be with you".

The 60's may have been a time of psychedelic intervention, but today it is no less, nor is the need for peace. Peace be with you my brother, I can't read your whole post, but what I could read warmed my spirit.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God ; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

John 14:1-4 NIV

"Get together, right now"

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on August 05, 2015:

Duncan, please excuse my long delay in replying to your comments. I will have to check out lyrics mode.com and I thank you for cross referencing my article.

Duncan R.M.Decapolis on July 26, 2015:

Thanks Paul, please excuse my somewhat scattered form, my mind gets racing with ideas, points of reference and I'm a lousy typer, chasing my tail to keep up! I'm glad you approved on your site, oh on lyrics mode.com I did a little more, they asked "bird on the wing" line. I also relayed readers to your site for cross reference. God bless u.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on July 26, 2015:

I haven't read the Bible in a long time so I am not aware of all these references in the song which you find in Bible verses. Thanks for pointing them out because they really add meaning to this great song. Thank you very much for sharing your comments!

Duncan R. M. Decapolis on July 26, 2015:

Yes I agree there's reference to the "signs of the times", war etc. But more so the tone, and main thrust of the song is a call to the Biblical mandate, of The Great Commandment, summarized as Love God, and love one another. Immediately, some would denegrate the love to an Eros type of love, but it's meaning is to take the higher road of Agape, highest love with God, The Creator, and subsequently Phileo, love as friendship/brotherly. (all stemming from the Greek language) From the first line of the song, it challenges the listener, to differentiate the meaning of the latter two aforementioned types of love. As if the Biblical teachings of Christ, to hear with your Spiritual ears. The perfect love that casts out all fear(1John 4:18) Interesting cast in Greek is "ripto" (phonetically) as if to literally rip the fear from one's self, and if unable to, as most all struggle to, calling on God's Strong Hand to rip it right out of us. The song also makes a parallel to the theme in 1John2(see vs. 10) but also up to vs. 17 which describes the lusts of life, and also the brevity of life. 1John 3:11-24 goes on to describe this love, note: Vs. 23. Then 1John 4:7-18 reiterates the message of love over hate and its historical roots, up to vs. 18 the first vs. I referenced. It's as if the lyrics make a direct reference to Psalm 90:5,6,9,10,12 "we are but a moments sunlight fading in the grass" Also in James 4:14, life is but a vapor. The dove in the lyric is representing The Holy Spirit, which we get pictures of from the ark: The raven or crow, smartest of birds, but like man though intelligent, yet intrinsically lent to disobedience, doesn't return to the ark, but the dove does, carrying an olive branch as both proof of dry land, but also a picture of the Triune Spirit of God(EloHim, plural name, Yahweh, Jeshua, Ruac Ha Kadesh, Holy Spirit in Hebrew) Also The Branch is a picture of Christ(please see Zechariah 3:7-10)( It also is a reference to The Cross of Christ, which can also be seen as early in Scripture as Genesis 1:11,12, that is if you have eyes, Spiritual ones, that is.) Also Christ "obedient to death, even death of The Cross"as stated in Scripture. "when The One that left us here returns for us at last" if this isn't The Second Coming of Christ, I don't know what is! Note: Bad Religions song "sorrow no more" references also "when The Only True Messiah Comes to rescue us from ourselves"The Bible speaks of The Second Coming exponentially more than His First Coming. A warning to those who don't think so? "Anathema Maranatha."("accursed are them that don't believe in The Coming of The Lord" 1Corinthians 16:22) Also keep in mind many of these (Biblical)principles were still intact, in 1967, 5 years since God outa schools. Fast forward 50plus years and we see shootings in schools and public venues(malls, theaters etc.) as commonplace. On news after recent Louisiana, they even have tips, protection etiquette in theater shootings! 7/26/2015 Duncan R.M. Decapolis

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on April 10, 2012:

Thanks for the information about the monologue, Hunter. I stand corrected. Also, thanks for stopping by and commenting on the hub.

Hunter Thompson on April 10, 2012:

I´m sorry, but you´re wrong. That monologue preceding the song is from the BSO from the film Fear and Loathing in las vegas. That monologue was written by Hunter S Thompson in 1971, in a book with the same name as the film (chapter 8).

LewSethics on November 06, 2011:

Great song, now I'll be hearing it in my head for days haha.

I visited the Haight-Asbury district in 1970 as part of my state hopping. People did that a lot in those days, just travel and live here and there for while. But the H-A district was already looking grim.

Great Hub, brought back many memories.

Leslie McCowen from Cape Cod, USA on November 06, 2011:

Nice Hub....You got it too.

It's trying to come back, and look! Meeting the same enemy!