Famed Aiken singer gives back to hometown

PHOTO BY BRENT CLINE Musician Jesse Colin Young and his wife, Connie, are enthusiastic supporters of the Golden Harvest Food Bank.

Jesse Colin Young's touring days are over, but the Aiken resident has continued to express himself through his songs since leaving the road last summer.

“I'm just finding other ways to keep my music flowing,” he said in a recent telephone interview. “It's still a big way for me to participate in my community and belong in the world but without the Holiday Inns and the bad food. I've had all the road food I can stand.”

Young, 71, gained fame in the 1960s as the founder and lead singer of The Youngbloods, a folk rock band whose best-known song was “Get Together.”

He also was a successful solo performer.

Now, Young is writing and releasing new tunes like “My Hometown” and “Fukushima, My Heart Goes Out to You” through videos on YouTube. He's also sung Christmas carols for a group his wife Connie is involved in and discussed songwriting with music students at Aiken High School.

In addition, Young keeps busy with an organic coffee growing and marketing venture.

Working for the causes he supports also takes up a lot of time. Young and his wife founded the movement Don't Waste Aiken, which is trying to prevent thousands of tons of radioactive waste from being dumped at the Savannah River Site.

“It's always David and Goliath when you're dealing with the federal government and the military industrial complex, so I'm warming up my slingshot,” Young said.

On Thursday, Young and his wife will serve as the hosts of the Feedback Sessions concert by Collective Soul's Ed Roland to benefit Golden Harvest Food Bank. The event is scheduled from 7 to 10 p.m. at The Willcox on Colleton Avenue.

“When Connie and I sit down each fall and figure out the gifts we are going to give, Golden Harvest is always in the top five of our giving,” Young said. “I live a very comfortable life, but I started out on New York's Lower East Side in my music career being very poor and very hopeful. I got very lucky, but I know what it's like to be hungry. Connie and I don't want to forget those people who are struggling to feed their families.”

Because the Youngs had a prior commitment, they will not appear at the Golden Harvest concert in person, but they taped a video that will be shown.

“We're also sponsoring six kids who are interested in music and paying for scholarships for them to be there,” Young said. “We want them to get to meet any of the musicians involved in some way and talk to them. Then, as part of their scholarships, the kids will go out to the local food bank and see how it works.”

While Young wanted to emphasize his involvement with Golden Harvest during the interview, he did agree to reminisce some about his past. He, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel were in the same fourth grade class. When Young was trying to build a professional music career, he was part of a scene, he said, that included Bob Dylan, Taj Mahal, Richie Havens and “the guys who formed The Lovin' Spoonful.”

Neither Young nor any of the members of The Youngbloods were involved in writing “Get Together” and they weren't the only ones to perform it. But their version of the song is the one most remembered today.

“Get Together,” which urges people to “try to love one another right now,” remains one of Young's favorites even though he has sung it countless times.

“It's a beautiful song, and it carries a timeless message,” he said. “No matter how many wars we start or participate in, we still yearn for peace. We yearn to get along.”