The Train Keeps Rolling, 50 Years On

February 26, 2015 1:47 AM

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The Train Keeps Rolling, 50 Years On

The 1965 song opens like a movie, with shimmering strings, spiritual humming and a far-off horn—an orchestral scene-setter that signals a biblical storm has passed and the sun is emerging. As the four-bar introduction ends, the cooing voices of Curtis Mayfield and Sam Gooden, backed by Fred Cash, begin singing: “People get ready / There’s a train a-comin’ / You don’t need no baggage / You just get on board.”

The Impressions’ “People Get Ready,” a gospel-soul ballad about a train to the Promised Land, was released as a single 50 years ago this month. An obvious metaphor at the time for hope and racial equality, the song was written by Mayfield in the late summer of 1964 and recorded that October. The son...

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