People Get Ready

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"People Get Ready"
People Get Ready single.jpg
Single by The Impressions
from the album People Get Ready
B-side "I've Been Trying"
Released 1965
Format 7" single
Recorded Chicago: 1964
Genre Soul
Length 2:38
Label ABC-Paramount 10622
Songwriter(s) Curtis Mayfield
Producer(s) Johnny Pate
The Impressions singles chronology
"People Get Ready"
"Woman's Got Soul"

"People Get Ready"
"Woman's Got Soul"

"People Get Ready" is a 1965 single by the Impressions, and the title track from the People Get Ready album. The single is the group's best-known hit, reaching number-three on the Billboard R&B Chart and number 14 on the Billboard Pop Chart. The gospel-influenced track was a Curtis Mayfield composition that displayed the growing sense of social and political awareness in his writing.

Rolling Stone magazine named "People Get Ready" the 24th greatest song of all time and also placed it at number 20 on their list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks. The song was included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. "People Get Ready" was named as one of the Top 10 Best Songs Of All Time by Mojo music magazine, and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998. In 2016, the song was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry due to its "cultural, historic, or artistic significance."[1]

Various artists have covered the song, including Bob Marley & the Wailers in 1965 and 1977 and Rod Stewart & Jeff Beck in 1985. The Australian group Human Nature had a minor hit in Australia with their version in 1997.


The gospel-influenced track was written and composed by Curtis Mayfield, who was displaying a growing sense of social and political awareness in his writing. Mayfield said,

That was taken from my church or from the upbringing of messages from the church. Like there's no hiding place and get on board, and images of that sort. I must have been in a very deep mood of that type of religious inspiration when I wrote that song.

The song is the first Impressions hit to feature Mayfield's guitar in the break.[2]

"People Get Ready" is in a long tradition of Black American freedom songs to use the train imagery - other examples are "Wade in the Water", "The Gospel Train", and "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot". The imagery comes from the Underground Railroad, not a real train but an escape route North to freedom for escaped slaves in America pre-civil war, with conductors such as Harriet Tubman going back time and again to the South to show people the route of the "railroad." Images of mobility have been consistently linked to liberation in African American music including trains, highways, marching and space travel.[3]

Reception and legacy[edit]

The single reached #3 on the Billboard R&B Chart and #14 on the Billboard Pop Chart.

Rolling Stone magazine named "People Get Ready" the 24th greatest song of all time and also placed it at number 20 on their list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks. The song was included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. "People Get Ready" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998, and selected as one of the ten best songs of all time by a panel of 20 songwriters, including Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson, Hal David, for Britain's Mojo music magazine in 2000.[4]

Cover versions[edit]

The song became a classic that has influenced a wide range of artists from country singers through British, American and Australian pop and rock artists to reggae star Bob Marley[5] who recorded an interpretation of People Get Ready as One Love/People Get Ready in 1965 and again in 1977. Bob Dylan recorded it twice; first in 1967 during the sessions that later became The Basement Tapes, and again in 1989 for the soundtrack to Flashback.[6] One of the most well-known covers is by Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart in 1985,[7] which gained considerable airplay on album rock and classic rock radio stations and had a popular video on MTV.[citation needed] The interpretation featured Beck's guitar carrying the melody with Stewart's signature raspy vocal set against that. It also represented a brief reunion between the two 1960s bandmates, and they would perform the song again during intermittent one-off reunions in later years. Another famous version by Stewart was recorded in 1993 where he was joined by Ronnie Wood for a session of MTV Unplugged. This version appears on the album Unplugged...and Seated.

Indie Rock band The Housemartins from Hull, UK covered the song, which was released as a B-side to the single "Sheep" (1986), and performed the song as a theatrical acapella number to close live shows.

Canadian country music singer Michelle Wright covered the song on the 1997 compilation album Peace in the Valley.[8] Bruce Springsteen used "People Get Ready" as the basis for his 1999/2000 songs "Land of Hope and Dreams" and "My City of Ruins" and sometimes interpolates or uses as a coda "People Get Ready" in performances of them. John Mayer's 2006 song "Waiting on the World to Change" is also based on "People Get Ready". Greg Lake (King Crimson, Emerson, Lake & Palmer) included it in tribute to its influence on his career on his "Songs of a Lifetime" solo tour. Singer Eva Cassidy covered the song in her 1996 album titled Live At Blues Alley (Blix Street Records).

Earlier recordings include those by The Chambers Brothers on their 1967 album The Time Has Come, Vanilla Fudge on their 1967 self-titled album, Petula Clark on her 1970 album Memphis (produced by Chips Moman), Aretha Franklin on her 1968 album Lady Soul, George Benson on his 1969 album Goodies, and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee on their 1973 album Sonny & Brownie. Boogie-woogie pianist Michael Kaeshammer and his band recorded an instrumental version of this song, which appears on his 2011 album Kaeshammer. Human Nature released "People Get Ready" as the 5th and final single from their Telling Everybody album in 1997.[9] It reached number 35 on the Australian chart.[10]

The Blind Boys of Alabama covered the song on their 2002 album "Higher Ground"

Phil Collins performed his rendition of "People Get Ready" as the last song of his 1982/1983 "Hello, I Must Be Going" concert tour. He again performed "People Get Ready" together with another Impressions song, "It's All Right", as the last two songs of his 1985 "No Ticket Required" concert tour. "People Get Ready" was also included on Beyond the Sunset, the latest CD from The Captain's Crew.

Paul McCartney based "Anyway" on "People Get Ready" for his 2005 album Chaos and Creation in the Backyard'

South African vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo covered the song on their 1997 album Heavenly.

Brazilian Christian rock band Oficina G3 covered the song on their 2008 album Depois da Guerra.

The main instrumental melody on "People Get Ready" was sampled by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis in their hit song "Same Love", which is a pro-gay anthem.

Bob Dylan's cover of the song was included in his 1978 movie Renaldo and Clara.[11]

The song was performed by Jeff Beck and Sting at the 25th Anniversary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Concert on October 30, 2009 at Madison Square Garden.

U2 performed the song live a number of times throughout the 80s and have played it sparingly in the 90s/00s. Last performance was during the Vertigo Tour in Philadelphia with Bruce Springsteen making a guest appearance.

Other notable artists who have covered the song include The Rance Allen Group, Lee Atwater, James Booker, Billy Bragg, Glen Campbell, Paul Carrack, David Clayton-Thomas, Tom Constanten, John Denver, The Doors, Jonathan Edwards, The Everly Brothers, Janie Fricke, Al Green, Glen Hansard, Jimmy James & the Vagabonds, Lyfe Jennings & Alicia Keys, Wynona Judd, Bap Kennedy, George Lynch, The Manhattans, Ziggy Marley, The Meters, Ronnie Milsap, Aaron Neville, John Oates, Jimmy Osborne, Johnny Osbourne, Maceo Parker, The Persuasions, Johnny Rivers, David Sanborn, Dusty Springfield, Slim & the Supreme Angels, Pops Staples, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Hans Theessink, Phil Upchurch, The Walker Brothers, Yellowman.[12]


  1. ^ "New Entries to National Recording Registry | News Releases - Library of Congress". Retrieved 2016-09-29.
  2. ^ Robert Pruter, Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions, The Anthology, 1961-1977, liner notes
  3. ^ Erickson, Brad. (2016). George Clinton and David Bowie: The space race in black and white. Popular Music and Society, 39(5), 563-578.
  4. ^ Gregg, Jonathan (12 July 2000). "So, What Are Your Ten Best Songs of All Time?".
  5. ^ "Song Inspired by March on Washington Carries Enduring Message".
  6. ^ Marquse, Mike (4 Jan 2011). Wicked Messenger: Bob Dylan and the 1960s; Chimes of Freedom. Seven Stories Press. p. 123.
  7. ^ Discogs - Jeff Beck And Rod Stewart – People Get Ready
  8. ^ "Reviews". Billboard: 83. 22 Feb 1997.
  9. ^ "Book Human Nature - National Feature Acts - National Names". BBC Entertainment. Retrieved 2014-07-13.
  10. ^ Hung, Steffen. "Human Nature - People Get Ready". Retrieved 2014-07-13.
  11. ^ Dylan, Bob; Dylan, Sara; Baez, Joan; Hawkins, Ronnie (1978-01-25), Renaldo and Clara, retrieved 2017-02-27
  12. ^ "People Get Ready". AllMusic. Retrieved 2017-12-24.

External links[edit]