Skip to comments.Message of civil rights anthem remains powerful
Posted on 08/28/2003 7:59:41 PM PDT by Chi-townChief
People get ready
there's a train a comin'
You don't need no baggage
Just get on board
Since its release in the winter of 1965, the lyrics of the song "People Get Ready" by the Chicago group The Impressions have sunk into collective American consciousness, a civil rights anthem for the struggle that continues today in America and elsewhere.
The song, written by Curtis Mayfield, was long thought to have been inspired by the Aug. 28, 1963, March on Washington, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. shared his dream of an America where children will be judged "not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."
In fact, "People Get Ready" was penned a year or two before the historic march on Washington, according to Cook County Commissioner Jerry "The Iceman" Butler, a former member of the Impressions.
Mayfield, who didn't attend the 1963 march, never minded that people thought it was because it was inspired by the same issues that launched the march, Butler said.
"When we started performing back in the 1950s around town here, it was right after Emmett Till was slain," Butler said, referring to the 14-year-old black Chicago boy who was murdered in Mississippi in 1955 after he reportedly whistled at a white woman.
"All of those things impacted on us because we were Till's age. . . . Then we got involved in terms of being aware of what was happening in the South, in particular, and in our neighborhoods in general. All of that, I think, influenced his writings," Butler said.
Mayfield's song--the first successful gospel-influenced song to become a crossover hit on the Billboard charts--is laced with spiritual and biblical language.
People get ready
For the train to Jordan
Picking up passengers from coast to coast
Faith is key
Open the doors and board them
There's hope for all among the love the most
Mayfield, who died in 1999, said his own religious upbringing influenced the lyrics in "People Get Ready" and other songs.
Butler met Mayfield at Traveling Souls Spiritualist Church, a congregation led by Mayfield's grandmother, the Rev. A.B. Annabelle Mayfield, in a basement on the West Side, Butler recalled.
The train image finds its roots in Negro spirituals and hymns from the black Baptist and Pentecostal movements that predate the 1960s civil rights movement by generations, said Sherry Sherrod DuPree, archivist for the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in Detroit.
"In the slavery times," Sherrod said, " it always meant going north, that something else was getting ready to happen that meant something positive in their life."
"That's the same thing in the religious connotation--you're moving from all this stress and bondage into a whole new arena and it's going to be a happy day."
The Impressions' "People Get Ready" has been covered dozens of times since it debuted on the Billboard charts on March 25, 1965. Artists as varied as reggae's Ziggy Marley and the Melodymakers, gospel's Blind Boys of Alabama and Al Green, soul queen Aretha Franklin, folk's Bob Dylan and John Gorka, the Neville Brothers, the Staple Singers, Rod Stewart Jeff Beck and U2 have all had a crack at Mayfield's anthem.
Butler believes the song's universal appeal is in its message.
"It lends itself to any situation. People get ready for war, people get ready for peace, people get ready for love, people get ready. There's a new day a comin'. People get ready to get involved. People get ready for the re-coming of Jesus. People get ready for the advent of the Buddha. People get ready for whatever's comin'."
"Get ready spiritually, get ready musically, get ready physically," he said. "Get ready, 'cause it's comin'."
also; be careful who n what you quote.
you might have to pay a "royalty fee..."
Chambers Brothers BUMP!
My favorite as well.
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