Mayfield said, "That was taken from my church or from the upbringing of messages from the church. Like there's no hiding place and get on board, and images of that sort. I must have been in a very deep mood of that type of religious inspiration when I wrote that song." The song is the first Impressions hit to feature Mayfield's guitar in the break.
Bob Dylan has recorded three different known versions of the song in three different decades. Dylan recorded the song with The Band in 1967 during the famed Basement Tapes Sessions. This version has never been officially released, but is widely available on the various bootlegs of The Basement Tapes. He recorded a second version in 1975, which was released in 1978 on a four song promotional record for his film Renaldo and Clara. That version was one of the 42 rarities on the iTunes anthology of Dylan's output. Dylan recorded a third version in 1988 for the film Flashback.
Canadian country music singer Michelle Wright covered the song on the 1997 compilation album Peace in the Valley. Her version peaked at #49 on the RPM Adult Contemporary charts.
In 2000, guitarist Eric Essix covered the song from his album Southbound.
At the 25th anniversary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Concert, Jeff Beck and Sting performed a cover version of "People Get Ready." Sting sang lyrics that were more Universalist than the original version.