“We only do shows once in a while now. We never tour any longer in the usual sense; both of us know when it’s time to act and when we do it’s still very enjoyable.” Those are the words of singer/songwriter and folk music legend Peter Yarrow as he readies to perform with long time partner Noel Paul Stookey tonight July 14 at 7 p.m. at the Bergen PAC in Englewood, NJ.
As part of Peter, Paul and Mary, who arguably were perhaps the most successful and revered folk trio in music; Yarrow wrote and co-wrote some of the best known songs of all time as well as remakes of other folk singer’s material such as, “Blowin’ in the Wind” by a relative unknown named Bob Dylan at the time and Pete Seeger’s “If I Had a Hammer.” “Puff, the Magic Dragon” and “Day is Done” Peter, Paul and Mary classics have transcended audiences for decades and remain staples in their catalog; even after the passing of Mary. “When I started some 50 years ago on university campuses, many of our fans from then all chose to grow up with us; first bringing their kids and now their grandchildren. The music and all music really, belongs to people and we all know this. Music has existed before and will exist long after I came to be; the thing is that people appreciate it in their own way and that is what matters most.”
The loss of Mary was devastating to her band mates as the remaining duo were not only saddened by their loss from a musical standpoint but from a personal place as well. Yarrow likens her passing to that of being widowed in a sense, yet he and Paul rejoice in her legacy. “Gosh,” he started slowly and reflectively. “Losing her was like losing a spouse. We felt so incomplete and we were filled with great sorrow but with that sorrow and great mourning also came a desire to sing songs, to continue; when I pass I hope Paul carries on. Besides a loss, we took it as an invitation to remember and to carry on; there’s a dedication here. This music, our music, her music, was part of an environment to create love, respect and to bring more people together in love. I’m very grateful to remember Mary by carrying on; did you know that I have had people say to me that when they hear us doing a certain song where she was prominent, that they swear they can hear her voice with ours? That’s powerful and to know that they take that away is quite gratifying.”
Touring with Paul in Mary’s absence was a easier then anticipated, helped along by fan support and the desire to continue. “Interesting enough,” explained Yarrow; “Before Mary passed away she wasn’t well enough to perform at some concerts which we had already booked. So Noel and I honored our commitments and the people, the audiences embraced us and they wanted us to continue; so we’ve done this before.”
A well know political and social activist, Yarrow uses his talents on other fronts besides music. “Operation Respect,” has attained international status and is a large part of his current daily routine. “I’m devoted to “Operation Respect,” he stated in no doubt about tones. “It’s a social and learning curriculum that teaches caring, loving and accepting and it’s now in 22,000 schools across America, 63 percent of the schools in Israel, it’s in Croatia and growing by the day. It teaches how to accept our differences and focuses on getting along and loving each other and when I’m called upon; I’m there! Noel has his own agenda for the same to make the world a more loving place with his focus also being on creating building blocks of spiritual strength and love.”
Tonight’s show in Englewood will be a smattering of hits and some sol works by both artists and all of it basked in warmth and a loving vibe. “There’s nothing unusual to see,” he said with a laugh. “Fans will see the Peter, Paul and Mary repertoire, a couple of songs that I do, that Noel does, the hits like “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Puff…” and it will be fun.”
Answering the often asked question about the message behind “Puff, the Magic Dragon” and rumors of it having a subliminal drug overtone or about someone’s death; Yarrow eagerly put them to rest. “No, not at all,” he stated with conviction. “It is and never was about drugs or death; it’s about the innocence of childhood lost. It’s about growing up and how one day you know longer want to play with dragons anymore. It’s about the passing of time and maturity, which is sad in a way but it happens to all of us.”
The Bergen PAC is located at 30 North Van Brunt Street in Englewood and tickets range from $39 to $69 per seat. To purchase online, please visit www.bergenpac.org and to discover more about Peter Yarrow; please go to www.peteryarrow.net.