EXCLUSIVE: At age 83, Noel Paul Stookey nonetheless has lots to say.
The singer/songwriter, often called the “Paul” within the ‘60s people trio Peter, Paul and Mary, just lately launched “Simply Causes,” a compilation of 15 songs, every highlighting a theme of social concern, together with the surroundings, starvation, and drug trafficking, amongst others. The star paired every tune in with an applicable non-profit group to learn from the album’s web proceeds.
And Stookey isn’t any stranger to singing for a very good trigger. The group’s model of “If I Had a Hammer” turned an anthem for racial equality. The band famously carried out Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ within the Wind” on the August 1963 March on Washington. In addition they protested the Vietnam warfare and joined the battle to enhance the working circumstances of California’s farmworkers – simply to call just a few.
Stookey spoke to Fox Information about releasing “Simply Causes,” his favourite reminiscence with Peter Yarrow and Mary Travers, the true story behind “Puff the Magic Dragon,” and turning into a born-again Christian.
Fox Information: What can audiences anticipate from “Simply Causes”?
Noel Paul Stookey: You realize, it’s not the discharge a lot. It’s what it’s about. That actually will get me up and occurring a variety of ranges. I used to be only a younger child from the Midwest who fell in love with rhythm and blues. I had my very own band in highschool and performed guitar. And Greenwich Village was a wake-up name with the music of Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie and Josh White.
I’ve been studying. I’m a gradual learner. I’ve been studying during the last 50, 60 years *laughs*. However I’ve are available contact with some actually fantastic folks at some actually fantastic moments just like the March on Washington. It woke up me. It woke up all of us. My explicit type of expression has all the time been music, whether or not it’s making up romantic songs in highschool or bringing the mission of my coronary heart to fruition.
Fox Information: How did you select the songs and the charities that you simply needed to assist on this album particularly?
Stookey: A whole lot of the songs that I’ve written had been, to start with, about consciousness. Not a variety of them are story songs, however after 50 years, there have been 15 that had been fairly clearly related. For instance, “Jean Claude” was a tune about two boys caught up within the Nazi occupation of France.
We selected the Dallas Holocaust & Human Rights Museum as its designated charity. It was a alternative between them and the one in Washington, D.C. However not all people will get to Washington, D.C. And wouldn’t it’s good if was supported by a remembrance and consciousness establishment additional West? So we picked the Dallas Holocaust Museum.
There’s additionally “Tom Fast,” a tune about America’s indigenous folks. I used to be actually touched by the First Nations Improvement Institute, which works to enhance circumstances for Native Individuals. They supply grants and coaching. So I believed that actually labored. And “The Connection” works with Partnership To Finish Dependancy… There’s a necessity for households to get to the guts of the matter when it comes to the addict’s wants and wishes. And to offer assist for these households.
Fox Information: Do you assume that artists like Bruce Springsteen can keep it up the custom of people music that you simply, together with Peter and Mary created within the ‘60s?
Stookey: Oh for positive… I do know he performs acoustic guitar and he’s been on Broadway. And I do know there are different folkies who’re simply extra recognized by folks as a result of they play acoustic guitar.
However the impression of people music within the ‘60s was rather more in regards to the message than it was in regards to the model. Even The Beatles reminded us of the truth that we’re a neighborhood of human beings and we share issues different than simply romance. And that has an impression. It’s definitely evident in hip hop and rap, notably within the early years.
It could have had an edge to it that put folks off. However there was a point of sorrow and inequity that was being expressed and a few anger. It’s about making a press release… It’s about making a message, whether or not it’s the surroundings, homelessness, voting rights, inequality… I believe all of us have to concentrate on the truth that people music is alive and effectively. It’s simply carrying a variety of completely different garments, enjoying a variety of completely different devices and being a variety of completely different voices.
Fox Information: What’s one reminiscence out of your time with Peter and Mary that also makes you smile every time you concentrate on it?
Stookey: That’s humorous. For those who hadn’t included the phrase “smile,” after all, I most likely would have mentioned the March on Washington and standing with Dr. King when he gave us the “I Have a Dream” speech. However the reminiscence I’ve, the one that provides me the largest smile, was when the three of us dressed formally following a celebration of John F. Kennedy’s second 12 months as president.
We headed for a celebration at Lyndon Johnson’s home, the vice chairman. Carol Burnett was there dancing. The president was singing alongside arm-in-arm with Gene Kelly who additionally did some faucet dancing for us. Jacqueline Kennedy was flirty with Yves Montand. And the president was very personable. However the smile comes from being within the backseat of the limo that was going about 60 miles an hour via D.C. neighborhoods behind police escort. I imply, what had been these three youngsters doing on this limo? In order that was a enjoyable second for all of us.
I keep in mind the president graciously came visiting to every of the performers to thank us personally. I keep in mind he requested, “What was the identify of that tune you sang when all people applauded? They appear to know the lyrics and needed to sing alongside as effectively.” The tune was “If I Had a Hammer.” Properly, Peter tried to elucidate that the tune was common and it was launched as a single. Then he tried to explain what a forty five was. The president simply smiled and mentioned, “Sure, sure, I do know what a forty five is. I simply don’t get a lot of an opportunity to take heed to the radio whereas driving to work anymore.” It was a gorgeous second.
Fox Information: “Blowin’ within the Wind” was written by Bob Dylan, nevertheless it was Peter, Paul and Mary that really made the tune world-famous. How did he really feel in regards to the group overlaying the tune?
Stookey: Oh, Bobby and I went again a 12 months or two earlier than the trio obtained collectively. I used to be grasp of ceremonies on the Gaslight Café and he was a passing via singer/songwriter. So we had a really comfy relationship. As a matter of reality, he wrote the liner notes for our third album. Everybody was concerned with people music and all of us confirmed as much as assist one another.
We lived in one another’s yard. Sang one another’s songs. Realized from one another. We shared and shared. After you completed a set you’d both spend time with the opposite folkies or go to the subsequent present to see and listen to what the opposite artists had been doing. So there was a really sturdy involvement.
Fox Information: What’s the story behind “Puff the Magic Dragon”? There are numerous theories that also exist about that tune.
Stookey: I believe that poor Puff was a sufferer of his occasions for a bit *laughs*. When Peter wrote the extra verses, it was clearly about this little boy who had grown up and not believed in Puff. It was a couple of boy coming of age. However the occasions wherein the tune was launched gave you a window of interpretation.
Peter went on stations and gave examples of how “The Star-Spangled Banner” might even be interpreted as a tune about medication. However sadly, it did not cease the rumor. And in some methods, it crippled gross sales. I imagine it was both Hong Kong, Shanghai or Singapore, however they refused to play it as a result of they felt it was about medication. Nevertheless it wasn’t and it by no means was. However the tune nonetheless brings folks pleasure.
Fox Information: You turned a born-again Christian within the late ‘60s. How did that affect your songwriting in any means?
Stookey: Oh, it fully modified my songwriting… I had a turnaround within the late ‘60s and the impression was fairly unimaginable. You will have a complete new perspective. You are feeling refreshed. There’s a way of being forgiven out of your earlier perspective, however you really take a look at the world in a brand new means. My perspective on every thing modified. And I’m immensely grateful for it. It altered every thing, together with my relationship with my household. And we moved to Maine from town of New York. We felt nearer to the Earth, which is a present. We felt renewed. It gave us balanced. It actually was a life-changing expertise.
Fox Information: What has saved you going as an artist, particularly inside an business that’s consistently evolving?
Stookey: I used to be very lucky within the late ‘70s to comprehend that a very powerful factor to me was my household and never a profession. So I set the bar low *laughs*. However when it comes to profession success, that’s to not say that Peter, Mary and I didn’t miss the enjoyment, the eye and the rewards that got here from the performances of the ‘60s. After which once we obtained again collectively once more within the ‘80s and ‘90s till Mary handed away in 2009, we had a really loyal, and concerned viewers.
I’ve [the drive] so long as I’ve nonetheless obtained one thing to say musically… I’m 83 years outdated now. And I’m fascinated about my subsequent album. I’m co-authoring much more than I used to. I’m wanting on the expertise round me and studying how they’re so astute, so intelligent. It’s been unbelievable, actually.
The Related Press contributed to this report.