Friday, September 30, 2005

From Curtis Mayfield to Jeff Beck

Last nite we watched the PBS special on the 60s. The program included footage of the funeral train carrying the casket of Bobby Kennedy. Americans lined the track across the country to pay their respects. The sound track playing during the sad procession was of Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions performing "People Get Ready".

Until last nite, I never knew there was an earlier rendition of the song. I had always associated it with a duet performed by Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart. Stewart is not one of my favorites, but on this recording his voice sails and blends perfectly with the guitar playing of Beck. The song is recorded on Jeff Beck's "Flash" album.

The 60s special continued, giving covereage of Woodstock and the ill-fated Rolling Stones concert at Altamont. The Altamont concert was billed to be a West Coast version of Woodstock, but it turned out tragically. Originally, the concert was planned to take place in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, but promoters could not get permission from city officials to hold the concert. The next place they tried was Sears Point Raceway, near the border of Marin and Sonoma counties, but once again they were turned away.

Concert promoters were running out of options and time, and so, with the assistance of the famed San Francisco trial attorney, Melvin Belli, a last minute deal was worked out to hold the concert at the Altamont Speedway in the Livermore hills, situated about thirty miles east of San Francisco.

I was a fifth grader at the time, and our home had a view of the Altamont Pass. I wasn't old enough to be aware of the historic events that were taking place across the valley from where we lived. The Rolling Stones, Santana, the Jefferson Airplane, and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young were all on the Altamont bill.

Today, Altamont is mostly known for the windfarm that has sprouted up there over the past 20 years. It's a barren stretch of hills at the far eastern edge of the Bay Area, separating the Bay Area from California's Central Valley.

Nothing marks the location of the infamous events that happened there in 1969. Instead, the area is the morning and afternoon passage for tens of thousands of bleary-eyed commuters making the grueling 2-3 hour drive from their semi-affordable homes in places like Tracy and Stockton to jobs in the South Bay Area and Silicon Valley. Hey, but like they say, "the weather's good!"

1 comment:

Michael M. said...

You have hit on another song I love. As with the last song you mentioned, there are dozens, probably hundreds, of recordings. Unlike "Stagger Lee," we know that one man made the song. His version is the most delicate and beautiful.

Curtis Mayfield was a brilliant everything man. He sang. He played. He wrote. He composed. He arranged. He produced. He was a consummate man of music. Searching turned up a good page from NPR's Morning Edition about "People Get Ready."