500 Greatest Songs of All Time

Rolling Stone's definitive list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.

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The Impressions, 'People Get Ready'

24. The Impressions, 'People Get Ready'

Writer: Curtis Mayfield
Producer: Johnny Pate
Released: Jan. '65, ABC-Paramount
8 weeks; No. 14 

"It was warrior music," said civil rights activist Gordon Sellers. "It was music you listened to while you were preparing to go into battle." Mayfield wrote the gospel-driven R&B ballad, he said, "in a deep mood, a spiritual state of mind," just before Martin Luther King Jr.'s march on the Impressions' hometown of Chicago. Shortly after "People Get Ready" was released, churches in Chicago began including their own version of it in songbooks. Mayfield's version of the song ended with "You don't need no ticket/You just thank the Lord," but the churches' rendition, ironically, made the lyrics less Christian and more universal: "Everybody wants freedom/This I know."

Appears on: The Very Best of the Impressions (Rhino)


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