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People Get Ready by The Impressions

Album: People Get ReadyReleased: 1965Charted:
  • Impressions lead singer Curtis Mayfield wrote this song. Mayfield got his start performing with the Northern Jubilee Gospel Singers, competing with other gospel acts in the Chicago area. Grounded in church music, he wrote many songs in that style, including "People Get Ready."

    The song embodies a deep sense of spirituality and community, but with enough popular appeal to make it a hit.
  • Mayfield based the song's lyric on various sermons he heard in church. He wrote the music first, and the gospel feel dictated the words.
  • This song resonated with African Americans during the civil rights struggles of the '60s. The song speaks for the downtrodden, and Mayfield made it clear that transcended race. "It doesn't matter what color or faith you have," he told Goldmine in 1997. "I'm pleased the lyrics can be of value to anybody."
  • Bob Marley was huge fan of The Impressions, and especially of this song (he could hear it in Jamaica on Miami radio stations). In 1965, he incorporated the verse lyrics of "People Get Ready" into "One Love," a song he recorded with his group The Wailers. This version didn't credit Curtis Mayfield, since copyright law was kind of loose in Jamaica.

    In 1977, Marley released a new version of the song for his album Exodus (credited to Bob Marley & The Wailers). This time, the song was titled "One Love/People Get Ready," with the songwriters listed as Bob Marley and Curtis Mayfield.
  • Aretha Franklin, Maria Muldaur, The Walker Brothers and Eva Cassidy are among the artists to cover this song. In 1985, Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart did a version that made #48 in the US.

    After Curtis Mayfield was paralyzed in 1990 (a light rig fell on him, crushing three vertebrae), royalties from this song - especially the Rod Stewart version - helped keep him financially sound, which he credited for helping him fend off depression and remain active as a songwriter and singer despite his condition. Mayfield released the acclaimed album New World Order two years before his death in 1999.
  • Vanilla Fudge recorded this in 1967. They had a hit the year before with their version of "You Keep Me Hangin' On," and covered many songs in a slowed-down, emotional style. Says Fudge drummer Carmine Appice: "When we do People Get Ready, we usually get a standing ovation. In the middle '60s, we were into Beatles stuff - Revolver and all that - and we were also into the R&B stuff: The Temptations, The Impressions, The Supremes. The Impressions were a favorite of mine, and I believe of Tim Bogert and Mark Stein as well. We came about the song and said, 'This would be a great song. It sounds like a Gospel song, let's make it sound like a churchy, Gospel-type song.' We came up with a very symphonic kind of intro, as we've done with many songs, but most of the song was done just with an organ and a vocal, and I actually sang that. With the background harmonies singing, 'Thank the lord,' it made it sound very Gospely. At the end, it built into a big, powerful last verse and chorus, and then it went out with Gospel vocals. That was a great arrangement for us, and today it still goes over great." (Thanks to Carmine for speaking with us about this song. His website is carmineappice.net.)
  • From a biblical standpoint, the lyrics encourage believers to hang onto their faith in times of strife because the "train to Jordan" is on its way to deliver them to a peaceful afterlife. The song, however, has a universal appeal beyond its religious underpinnings as it promises triumph in fighting the good fight, and the assurance of punishment for those who have done us harm.

    Jordan is an Arab kingdom in the Middle East bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south and east, Iraq to the northeast, Syria to the north, and Israel and Palestine to the west. Referenced in the Bible as part of the Kingdom of Ammon, it's often considered one of the only places of refuge for Christians during the end times. Daniel 11:41 speaks of the antichrist's inability to overcome the country: "He will also invade the Beautiful Land. Many countries will fall, but Edom, Moab and the leaders of Ammon will be delivered from his hand." It's also a significant place in the Gospels as the Jordan River was the site of Jesus' (and many others') baptism.
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Comments: 13

On February 7th 1965, "People Get Ready" by the Impressions entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #84; and six weeks later on March 21st, 1965 it peaked at #14 {for 1 week} and spent 8 weeks on the Top 100...
It peaked at #3 on Billboard's R&B Singles chart...
Between 1958 and 1987 the group had forty-six records make the R&B Singles chart; sixteen made the Top 10 with four reaching #1 {"It's All Right" in 1963, "We're A Winner" in 1967, "Choice of Colors" in 1969, and "Finally Got Myself Together" in 1974}...
Group leader Curtis Mayfield passed away on December 26th, 1999 at the young age of 57...
May he R.I.P.
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
The genius that was Curtis Mayfield, this time shown in a beautifully moving song.Oldpink - Farmland, In
The Impressions were certainly one of the super groups of the 60s & 70s. They charted 38 times on the Pop chart; with two records making the Top 10, "It's All Right" {peaking at #4 in 1963} and "Amen" {peaking at #7 in 1965}...Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
the impressions were telling people to get ready for the apocolypseJoe - Gallipolis, Oh
I was listening to the newly-released "The Doors: Live in Boston" and the first verse of "Mystery Train" is almost identical to that of "People Get Ready." Just an interesting observation.Luke - Scranton, Pa
Of all the versions of "People Get Ready" I've heard, Human Nature's live version has 2 B the BEST version ever - no excuses!Phil - Sydney, Australia
Every time I heat this song I think of the footage of people marching for civil rights and being beaten and arrested for wanting what was rightfully theirs. I also think about a life cut tragically short in Curtis Mayfield.Ann - Baltimore, Md
I agree with you, Al, that the original is the best, but Jerry does no one any dishonor by holding an opinion.

And Eva Cassidy's version is fantastic. Nothing wrong with holding it in such high esteem.
John - Boston, Ma
Jerry, with all due respect, you must be out of your mind! This song has been covered many times, but NO ONE...NO ONE does this better than the originators, The Impressions, helmed by the incomparable Curtis Mayfield. Eva Cassidy's version is ok, but I would say that next to The Impressions, the best covers I've heard are by James Taylor and Bob Marley's interpolation.

You not only dishonor yourself, but Eva Cassidy as well-I'm sure she would be the first one to tell you how wrong you are.
Al - New York, Ny
Anybody ever notice that Van Morrison cloned (stole?) this song when he wrote Tupelo Honey? Wonder if it was intentional or merely inspiration... but I wonder why it's not mentioned anywhere else.Caren - Detroit Area, Mi
Yet another song in a long list that Eva Cassidy has covered and outshone all others. What an incredible voice and talent!Jerry - Brooklyn, Ny
This is #24 in Rolling Stone's list of 500 greatest songs.Ross - Independence, Mo
A perfect song. It's hard to believe that this song was written in the 60's, when it sounds as if its as old as the soil. I'm not religious, but I feel the spirit when I hear this song. My suggestion is listening to the Impressions version with headphones, they use stereo with the three voices extremely well. Also, Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart did a very pretty version of this in the late 80's.Craig - Madison, Wi
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