Veteran rocker's music has a purpose

Community and communication mean more than just trotting out old hits for singer-songwriter Jesse Colin Young.


Mr. Young, now an Aiken resident, will perform a benefit for Aiken Prep on Saturday at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts in Aiken. Best known as the lead singer in the rock act the Youngbloods (Get Together, Sunlight ), Mr. Young has spent nearly 50 years in the music business. He said the Aiken event, his second benefit for his wife's alma mater, is an excellent example of the ways he chooses to use his music today.

"I do a lot of benefits," he said. "It's a great way for me to contribute. I mean, I would never be any good on a school board. I've been captain of my own ship for too long. This is something that works for me."

Although Mr. Young spent the 1980s and '90s touring as a solo act or with one other person, in recent years he has rediscovered the pleasure of playing in a band. Just as his career has circled back to his Youngblood roots, so has the songwriting. Two recent compositions, posted on his Web site (, reference the election and the war in Iraq.

"There are the sort of topical songs that have been sprinkled in there throughout my career," he said. "What's nice is I don't have to go through a record company to release them. I don't need to make money at it. I can give it away when I have something to say. It's wonderful."

Before relocating to Aiken 2 1/2 years ago, Mr. Young and his family ran a coffee farm in Hawaii. Before that they lived in northern California until a fire destroyed their home. Although the Youngs still maintain the coffee farm and Mr. Young still has a studio in Marin County, Calif, living in Aiken has proven a welcome change for him.

"The thing is, I can do my work anywhere, and Hawaii, well, it made touring a little tough," he said with a laugh. "I mean, it added 3,000 miles to every trip."

He said the family moved to Aiken at his wife's urging, motivated by her desire to be closer to her parents. What Mr. Young has discovered is a place where he feels comfortable, whether recording in his converted squash court studio or singing for the school his sons now attend.

"What can I say," he said. "I love it here."

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or


WHAT: The Jesse Colin Young Band, benefitting Aiken Prep

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 126 Newberry St., Aiken

COST: $50 reserved seating; $100 preferred seating and after-party with band;