“Darkness Darkness” – The Youngbloods, 1969
This song, from the album Elephant Mountain, was released in 1969. Though never a major hit, it was particularly notable because soldiers in Vietnam felt a strong connection to it and it became an anthem of sorts for them in the ‘Nam jungles. The Youngbloods went on to record nine albums in all. The band was comprised of Jesse Colin Young, Jerry Corbitt, Lowell Levinger, nicknamed “Banana,”, and Joe Bauer. Despite receiving critical acclaim, they never achieved widespread popularity. Their song “Get Together” became an international hit after it was used in a radio public service announcement as a call for brotherhood by the National Conference of Christians and Jews.
Elephant Mountain made it to 118 on the hits list, and “Darkness” went up to 86 on the top 100 list. In some ways, this is notable: top 40’s music is usually pretty “pop”, especially in 1969 when the music was going through huge transformations. We find many artists that never made it “big” but were, nevertheless, immensely talented. In the years surrounding “The Summer of Love” in San Francisco (1967), the rock, folk-rock, psychedelic rock, and of course, the improv masters The Grateful Dead were all morphing music styles and sounds faster than ever before. These were very prolific, creative, exciting times. Music had graduated from high school dance music to adult listening almost overnight. Concert-going became the normal weekend activity (and Wednesdays at the Fillmore were pretty good too) as Bill Graham booked lots of local talent at the Fillmore, and Winterland and The Avalon were featuring great bands as well in San Francisco.
“Darkness Darkness” has been covered by Mott the Hoople, Iain Matthews, Eric Burdon, Ghost Poet, Richie Havens, Screaming Trees, Golden Earring, Robert Plant, Cowboy Junkies, Helium Vola and numerous others as well as film soundtracks.