"As he famously said," Fong-Torres recalls, " 'For 10 years of my life? Man, I can write another song.' " Valenti did eventually recover the rights later in life, before his death in 1994.
Valenti's most famous song went on to have a life of its own. Though it didn't get much national attention in 1967, two years later The Youngbloods' version was used in a public service announcement for the National Conference of Christians and Jews. People started calling their radio stations requesting the song. Young remembers what happened next.
"Augie Blum, the head of promotion at RCA, went to his boss and said, 'I want this song again. Now's the time for it.' And they told him, 'Now Augie, we don't do that. You know we released it once. That's it.' And he said, 'You release a song again or I'm out of here.' He was too valuable for them to lose," Young explains. "So they put it out again, and he was right, of course. The country was ready."
The Youngbloods' version of "Get Together" went to No. 5 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart. Fong-Torres says it captured the zeitgeist of the time, albeit in a roundabout way: "It took a band from New York City to give San Francisco and the Haight-Ashbury generation its anthem."
One meaning of the word "anthem" is a psalm or hymn. "Get Together" definitely carries that message for Young, who was a born-again Christian in his teens.
"I think Dino must have had some church upbringing, because he's talking about, 'Some may come and some may go. We will surely pass.' This is very Eastern philosophy, and new to some of us at that point," Young says. " 'When the one that left us here returns for us at last / We are just a moment's sunlight fading in the grass.' Wow."
Freiberg, however, points out a word change: "The Youngbloods' version says, 'When the one that left us here returns for us at last.' Dino said the lyric was supposed to be, 'When the wind that left us here.' I like that best 'cause it symbolizes the cosmic wind and the interconnection of everything." He adds, "But then, I'm a Buddhist."
An early review of the song even asked why it's not sung in church. Wright thinks it should be. "There was just all this imagery, some of it even edging on biblical imagery," Wright says. "I just felt like this is one of those songs that helped me speak better, speak everything else better. And when I first heard it, I knew that it would make me better as a messenger."
And Young says it still carries a message — for our times.
"Every night I sing it, it's my favorite part of the show because the people sing," he says. "I played it in Central Park this past summer, and that was on the first anniversary of Charlottesville. Those people sang it stronger than I've ever heard it sung. Some people were pumping their fists, and I realized they were saying, 'We choose love.' "