Music and lyrics by Curtis Mayfield
Arranged for chorus and soloist by Paul Dupree
People get ready there’s a train a-coming.
You don’t need no baggage, you just get on board.
All you need is faith to hear the diesels humming.
Don’t need no ticket, you just thank the Lord.
People get ready for the train to Jordan,
picking up passengers from coast to coast.
Faith is the key, open the doors and board them.
There’s room for all; people get ready.
Curtis Lee Mayfield (June 3, 1942–December 26, 1999) was an American soul, R&B, and funk singer, songwriter, and record producer. Best known for his music with The Impressions and for composing the soundtrack to the film Super Fly, Mayfield is highly regarded as a pioneer of funk and of politically conscious African-American music. He grew up singing gospel in Chicago black churches, and was also a multi-instrumentalist who played the guitar, bass, piano, saxophone and drums.
Mayfield’s career began in 1956 when he joined The Roosters. Two years later when The Roosters evolved into The Impressions, Mayfield became the lead singer. Their hit Amen, an updated version of an old gospel tune, was included in the soundtrack of the 1963 MGM film Lilies of the Field. The Impressions reached the height of their popularity with a string of Mayfield compositions that included Gypsy Woman, It’s All Right, Talking about My Baby, Woman’s Got Soul, Choice of Colors, Fool For You, This is My Country and Check Out Your Mind.
In the early 1960s, Mayfield wrote much of the soundtrack of the civil rights movement. His Keep on Pushing was an anthem for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the movement.
People Get Ready was inspired by King’s 1963 March on Washington. In an interview with National Public Radio’s Terry Gross, Mayfield said the song was a subconscious product of “the preachings of my grandmothers.” He wrote the ballad “in a deep mood, a spiritual state of mind,” just before Martin Luther King Jr.‘s 1966 march on Chicago. Shortly after People Get Ready was released, churches in Chicago began including their own version in songbooks.
The song became one of the first gospel crossover hits and ranks 24th on Rolling Stone’s 500 greatest hits of all time. The song is a classic for black and white musicians, including Bob Dylan, Rod Stewart, James Taylor, Bob Marley, Eva Cassidy, Aaron Neville, Seal, Phil Collins, Wynonna Judd, Sting, Jeff Beck and Aretha Franklin.
Curtis Mayfield is a winner of both the Grammy Legend Award (in 1994) and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (in 1995), and was a double inductee into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in 1991 as a member of The Impressions and in 1999 as a solo artist.