Quick stats: Jesse Colin Young, singer/songwriter for the Youngbloods
Daily driver: 2019 Tesla Model X (Jesse’s rating: 10 on a scale of 1 to 10)
Other cars: see below
Favorite road trip: Point Reyes to Santa Barbara
Car he learned to drive in: 1950s Mercury Monterey
First car bought: Plymouth Barracuda
While most people his age have long settled into retirement, at 78, Jesse Colin Young has been busy answering the call of these times we are in, fulfilling his raison d’etre.
He’s going back to a song 50 years after it became a No. 1 hit, a song synonymous with the Summer of Love and the Vietnam War, and playing “Get Together” for fans around the world isolated at home in this post-COVID-19 world. He also launched his new podcast, which involves driving around in his 2019 Tesla Model X, and he hopes it will help people think about things like music during this tough time.
Young’s Tesla is a symbol of his way of thinking about the environment and the world around us. “My wife and I have come to the realization, though probably way too late for young people, that we [need] to do something about carbon, and fast. We decided to buy a Tesla and it’s an amazing vehicle,” Young told MotorTrend.
Since the Youngbloods, Young has been able to drive a lot of “lovely cars” through the years. “But I don’t think there’s any car, perhaps my 1972 BMW 2002 when I had it tricked out, it felt like one piece, and since then I’ve probably had 20 cars and this is the first one that once again feels like it’s one piece,” he says, with a laugh. “It’s just that marvelous feeling that it’s all engineered as one car.”
It’s the perfect ride for Young, who likes to corner hard. “It’s fast. There’s almost no side sway no matter how hard you corner,” he says. “It’s an amazing feeling and very fast, too fast probably for me.”
The only thing Young doesn’t like is the seat doesn’t get hot enough. This is Young’s first electric car, but not his first attempt to buy something that’s kinder to the environment. “Maybe 10 years ago I bought one of the phony baloney Volkswagen diesels for the very reason—32 miles to the gallon which turned out to be a lie, and much cleaner than a gas engine, which turned out to be a lie,” he says, with a laugh. “So, when they offered to buy it back, I sold it to them. That was my second Volkswagen—I had a Vanagon once years ago.”
2017 BMW X1
Young bought his BMW with money they gave him back for the Volkswagen, and it has plenty of room for guitars and a dog. “It’s a really good car, very solid, very fast. I wanted a four-cylinder because I wanted some kind of gas mileage. Would love to have a V-6, but it’s ridiculous. We had an X5, it gets 19 miles to the gallon, we can’t do that anymore. I was born driving a V-8 and those days are over, at least for me,” Young says. “And I hope for a lot of other people. We can’t pour this stuff into the atmosphere anymore. We’re choking ourselves.
He likes the BMW’s sport mode and thinks this car has the “greatest” seat. “It’s a real zippy little car in sport mode. Great handling, very fast, not really an open road car for me. I don’t know who’s designing their seats these days, but I almost bought it for the seat,” he says.
Young wanted a car at his age that he can get straight out of, that he didn’t have to climb up and out of, and the X1 is just the right height for him.
He has always loved BMWs, since his BMW 2002. “I bought that new in 1972 and had it probably 10 years. I’ve had other BMW motorcycles, but not another BMW until the X1 and the X5 we had before the Tesla,” he says.
Car he learned to drive in
Young’s father taught him to drive in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where they lived, in either a 1951 or 1952 Mercury Monterey, which had a two-tone green paint job. “I miss two-tone cars. Stick obviously, three-speed, no radio,” he adds.
His dad was an accountant and loved to save money, so he didn’t put a radio in the car until someone said he should for safety reasons.
It was the only car his father bought that wasn’t black. “I frightened him a lot. I loved to run the radio loud,” he says, laughing at the memory of those father-son driving lessons. “He was trying to talk to me and teach me how to drive, and I wanted to listen to rock and roll on these little five-watt radios that used to be in cars.”
After they both survived those driving lessons, his dad bought his mom a 1956 Ford convertible. “Red and black. Beautiful. Really a stretch for him, with an automatic transmission,” he says. “He was foolish enough to let me drive that, and I think we put six transmissions in that car. I did drive it into a canal once, but luckily, I didn’t go in the water. I think I’m kind of a ditch hugger. Maybe that’s from being a motorcyclist.”
He couldn’t wait to get his driver’s license because he’s had a fascination with motorcycles as a kid. “I think I was 15 and a half when I was allowed a temporary license. I could not wait, and I know that my girlfriend’s mother called her up and said, ‘If he passes his test today, don’t you dare drive with him!’ She figured I needed experience before she wanted to risk her daughter’s life.”
Young’s dad gave him the Mercury Monterey, which was his high school car. “This was a pretty car. I liked it. Bench seat in the front,” he says. “I was obviously trying to have my first hot love affair, but it didn’t happen in the car I’m sorry to say. It was in a golf course.”
First car bought
In 1965, Young bought a used Barracuda, bought with money sold from his precious BMW R69S, because he was starting to tour as the Youngbloods. “I tried touring on the motorcycle and was marginally successful, obviously not in bad weather. I was able to fit my guitar into the luggage racks sitting up straight, and I did get all the way to Canada like that once and back, but it was really not very practical. That was a beautiful bike, the fastest BMW made at that point,” he says.
He sold the BMW and got help from his dad, because he was $1,000 short for the Barracuda, which became a crucial part of the band.
“That was the biggest car that we had because it had that long back, that big window in the back. Instead of a trunk, we could get all our luggage in and guitars,” he says. “I remember the four of us, at one point, and my ex and my little daughter, driving around in the Barracuda to gigs.”
Just after that time, on June 5, 1967, the Youngbloods flew to San Francisco, and it became a town that changed the trajectory of Young’s life. “We were in New York. That was our base, and I remember walking into this little cheap hotel and flicking on the radio and there was ‘Get Together.’ We had no idea. Nobody told us. I don’t know why, that we had a hit record in San Francisco at the beginning of the Summer of Love.”
They finished their gigs, went home to finish their album, and moved to the Bay Area where they were famous, playing to 500 people instead of 50. He drove that Barracuda across the country to his new home.
“Saw my first UFO somewhere in Montana,” he says of that one-way road trip in the Barracuda, to his new life. “It made it another year and then the motor blew up. And we had moved to West Marin. You’ve got 40 miles of really curvy, tight roads before you get to the freeway. The Barracuda wasn’t made for those kind of roads. It didn’t have the suspension.”
When the Barracuda died, Young bought a new 1968 Datsun pickup that he recalled had 1,300 ccs. He got his first pickup truck at the same time he got his first dog. “A little tiny engine,” he says, with a laugh. “But it was new, and I had not had a new car. I’d either had a car from my dad or the Barracuda was used. It eventually blew up. The Datsun was brand new, and I could put my dirt bikes up in the back of the truck and my dog.”
Young had the $2,000 to buy the Datsun from money he made touring. “I bought it for cash. It was the cheapest car I could get, and then of course, I could put my bike in there and my dog, so it was perfect,” he says. “It was not a great family car, but we had just one child at that point. When my son Cheyenne was born we had to move to a Volvo station wagon.”
Young has a lot of memories with the Youngbloods and this pickup truck. “I had this picture that Banana took of Joe, two guys in the Youngbloods and both photographers, and were always taking pictures of us, and there I am—we’re in our first year from the Lower East Side, we are living in the country. I had this pickup truck with my beautiful dog Daisy in the back and my Ducati dirt bike,” Young recalls.
Favorite road trip
Young loves the drive from Point Reyes to Santa Barbara on Highway 1. “Point Reyes is on Highway 1 above San Francisco, and besides going through the edge of the city, it has the most curvy, beautiful roads that there are in California and I was totally blown away that there were no guardrails on that road,” he says, “It was straight off into the ocean. Growing up on the East Coast, I was used to guardrails. It intimidated me for a while. But the scenery and the curves. I love curves.”
Young calls his new album “very important music,” which deals with being environmentally aware, among other topics. “It’s just like buying a Tesla. We do have to face up to certain things, and one of them is we’ve got to radically change the way we live in this environment or millions are going to die,” he says. “I don’t know whether we can stop it from happening now or not, but at least I got to try. I’ve got to feel like I’ve tried.”
Besides the Tesla, Young added solar panels to his house. “We’re about to put another one on this old squash court that I practice in—it’s full of musical gear. We don’t play squash in it; we play music in it,” he says.
“Dreamers is one of best records I’ve made. The best writing, probably the only record I ever made where I wrote every song, two of them with my wife,” he says. “And it’s a beauty. It’s kind of like this whole new ‘I don’t know how to do this, I’m making it up as I go along.’ But I’m actually getting back into my roots.”
Tripping on My Roots podcast
To further go back to his roots, Young just launched the first episode of his podcast, produced with his wife Connie, where he drives his Tesla to places and people that have influenced him.
“The first one was about Blind Willie McTell, a blues singer. He wrote a song called ‘Statesboro Blues’ that the Allman Brothers made famous. Five years before that, it was on the Youngbloods’ first album. I found that he was buried 40 miles from here,” he says from his South Carolina home. “That town has embraced Blind Willie. He was a 12-string player. They have all these big art pieces throughout the town. And they have a big 150-foot mural in the center of town and Blind Willie’s in the middle of that. “That music was so important to all the young musicians growing up, he said. “The Allman Brothers were probably up a generation from me. But both of us were caught by this song. And Blind Willie never lived long enough before the blues revival came and all of a sudden college kids were listening to blues and Mississippi John Hurt and people like that,” he says.
A “Get Together” Worldwide Song Quilt
In this COVID-19 world, fans have requested “Get Together.” Young did a video for Rolling Stone to help fans get through this forced mass stay-at-home period. That sparked him to start “One Song at a Time,” which involves recording different songs during the week to raise money for WhyHunger.
“WhyHunger is in a critical place now,” Young says, of this current economic climate created from the pandemic.
Some songs are evergreen, and though “Get Together” first resonated with the Hippie Generation, it’s coming back around, with people rediscovering or discovering him for the first time as they spend more time at home.
“We need some love talk. The song is about love,” he says. “It’s funny, we need that song now more than ever, not only because of the political place we’ve gotten ourselves into, but now here we are with the coronavirus, and we’re in deep trouble and time for us to pull together,” he says. “This is what we do as a nation when we’re in trouble and this is kind of like a war. So ‘Get Together’ once again, when I got that call from Rolling Stone, I realized, ‘Yes, it is time,’ and time again, and here it is. We just sat down and did it the next day here at home because it needs to be listened to. It needs to be sung.”
Young would like fans to make their own versions of the chorus on video and send it to him. “We’ll create a song quilt of ‘Get Together’ choruses in the key of G,” he says. He asks people to use the #GetTogetherAgain @JesseColinYoung. “We’re collecting them. We need more. We’ll end up with a collection of ‘Get Together’ from people all over the world,” he adds.
Young never gets tired of singing the song he’s most known for singing. “Listen to the lyrics. They’re so right on for every situation that you can think of. It’s an amazing song and it’s a blessing for me. Every time I sing it, I feel my heart open up,” he says. “I love to sing with an audience because it is church for me, to sing it with an audience and to feel and to know that we are feeling that. We’re feeling like there’s some part of us, our spirits, we are one and we touch that oneness with ‘Get Together.’ It draws people together.”