PORT ANGELES — Jesse Colin Young quit the road a decade ago. The singer-songwriter, known for his solo work and for his music with the Youngbloods, had had enough.
Then he and his wife, Connie, went up to Boston to see son Tristan’s senior recital at the Berklee College of Music.
“It just blew me away,” said Young, 76.
“Whatever light that went off in my heart came back on.
“I thought, ‘Before I leave the planet, I’ve got to play with some of these young people.’ ”
This spring, Young is touring the West Coast and stopping in Port Angeles on Saturday night. He and his eight-piece band, with Tristan Young on bass, play the classics plus tracks from a brand-new record to be released in late summer.
Tickets to the 7:30 p.m. concert at the Port Angeles High School Performing Arts Center, 304 E. Park Ave., range from $18 to $40, or $10 for youngsters 14 and younger. For information see www.JFFA.org, and to purchase in advance, visit the Joyful Noise Music Center in downtown Sequim or Port Book and News in downtown Port Angeles.
“I think I must be out of my mind,” Young quipped during a phone interview from his home in Aiken, S.C.
That’s Connie’s hometown, and it’s where he penned the fresh songs. The album promises tracks including “For My Sisters,” inspired by the Women’s March.
“Connie said, ‘I wish you would write a song for my sisters,’ ” Young said.
“I went upstairs. And out it came … I thought, maybe the channel’s open.”
He’s also written “They Were Dreamers,” an ode to the people who came on the Mayflower, to those who fled the Irish famine — and to the “dreamers” of now, brought into this country as children, undocumented. The album’s working title is “Dreamers” in their honor.
In concert, Young travels back and forth in time, stirring into his set “What’s Goin’ On,” the Marvin Gaye lament. He begins the evening alone on stage, offering an acoustic set of 25 or 30 minutes.
“I just like to connect that way,” he said. “These are songs I love: ‘Songbird,’ ‘Sugarbabe.’ Then we take a little break; then the band plays. We’re liable to start with something like [‘High on a] Ridgetop.’ ”
As for the new music, “I’m singing about life as I see it,” he added.
“Some of it’s topical … and there are love songs,” and one titled “For Orlando.”
In the wake of the Pulse nightclub massacre of June 12, 2016. Young wonders how we can heal; how we can fill the emptiness we feel.
In response, he writes:
We need to love each other/
every sister, brother …/
Love is an angel’s weapon.
Young finds inspiration in the words of Pete Seeger and the blues of Mississippi John Hurt and Lightnin’ Hopkins, yet “more than anything, I listen to Yo-Yo Ma.
“He’s my hero. He delivers such love and devotion to every note he plays. I can’t imagine being that good,” he said, adding that he got to meet the renowned cellist once at Symphony Hall in Boston, back when Tristan was at Berklee.
Young has been a singer since he was a boy growing up in Queens, N.Y.; he learned from his family.
“My mother had a beautiful voice, and my father played the piano.
“We sang around the piano. We sang in the car,” he said. “We sang whenever we were bored.”
After studying classical guitar as a scholarship student at Phillips Andover, an elite high school in Massachusetts, Young set out to make a life in music, just as the era of folk, rock and social ferment was beginning.
His first album, “Soul of a City Boy,” came out in 1964, to be followed by many more including “Young Blood” in ’65, “Together” in ’72, “Song for Juli” in ’73 and “Light Shine” in ’74.
Coffee farming in Hawaii, 25 years living in Inverness, Calif., until his home burned down in the Mount Vision Fire of 1995, and infection with Lyme disease came after.
Today, as we’re struggling to move forward amidst division and strife, can music help?
“I’m praying it can,” Young said.
“It can energize love for one another and caring for the planet.”
Young and his band are coming to town as part of the Juan de Fuca Foundation for the Arts’ Season Concerts series; Dan Maguire, the foundation’s executive director, has been an ardent fan of the Youngbloods and later Young’s solo work since the early 1970s. He and Carol Pope, office manager at the Juan de Fuca Foundation, happened to witness the same Youngbloods concert in Bellingham in 1973.
“Aside from being a rock star, Jesse always had solid credentials as a talented singer-songwriter,” Maguire said.
“Although he hasn’t made a lot of new music in recent years, his back catalog is certainly a work of art, and art is timeless.
When asked how it feels to him, these days, when he begins to sing his anthem from 1967:
Love is but a song to sing/
Fear’s the way we die/
You can make the mountains ring /
Or make the angels cry …/
Come on people now/
Smile on your brother/
Everybody get together/
Try to love one another/
Right now ..
“People are so hungry for ‘Get Together,’ ” he said, adding that he realized this last winter while giving a series of concerts in New Hampshire. The shows were sold out, he said, despite relentless snowfall.
“I felt this hunger. People wanted to hear songs about family, love, caring for one another.
“That’s what I feel: People are really ready to sing it, to feel that feeling of togetherness, and the power in that connection.
“There are plenty of us still alive who lived through that era,” said Young, “and carry that with us in our hearts.”
Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.