It is no surprise that the guy who wrote “The National Hippie Anthem” smoked pot. Chet Powers, a burly carnival employee, did not intend to distill his age’s zeitgeist. He just wanted to get laid. A year before she became Andy Warhol’s bohemian muse, Edie Sedgwick had a short-lived fling with Powers. He transported his fleeting courtship into a universal expression of love.
His carnie background led to a series of petty crimes culminating in a two-year stint in Folsom Prison for marijuana possession. To raise money for his legal fees, Powers sold record manager Frank Werber the publishing rights to “Let’s Get Together.” Powers lost out on millions of potential royalties.
After shortening the name, Werber gave the song to folk outfit Kingston Trio to middling success. Desperate to follow up their surprise hit, “You Were on My Mind,” Werber tried again with another act he signed, We Five. Signe Toly Anderson, inspired by the We Five, convinced her band, Jefferson Airplane, to record a cover for their 1966 debut album. That was how Jesse Colin Young eventually discovered the song. Along with his band the Youngbloods, he released the drippy call for peace in 1967. The song is so sixties that it initially only hit #62. If you’ve heard the song they sing, it was because the National Conference of Christians and Jews used the song for a public service announcement for unity in 1969. The spot revitalized interest in the Youngblood’s version. The song recharted into the top 10 and became the go to needle drop for the Summer of Love’s idealism.