Photo by Phil Konstantin, 20 November 2008
Born: 31 May 1938, New York City
Yarrow's parents were named Yaroshevitz when they arrived at Providence, Rhode Island from Ukraine. Yarrow attended New York's High School of Music and Art (now LaGuardia High School), then graduated from Cornell University in 1959 before returning to New York. He started singing with Mary Travers in December 1960, soon to be joined by Noel Paul Stookey, creating Peter, Paul and Mary. Their eponymous first album was released in 1962, galvanizing the folk music revival. The group recorded and toured extensively through the rest of the decade. While working on Eugene McCarthy's presidential campaign in 1968, Yarrow met the candidate's niece, Mary Beth McCarthy, and they married in October of 1969. Yarrow was involved in founding the New Folks Concert series at the Newport Folk Festival, wrote songs for other performers, and produced three TV specials based on "Puff the Magic Dragon" for CBS. In 1978 he organized Survival Sunday, an anti-nuclear benefit concert at the Hollywood Bowl, and invited Stookey and Travers to join him in the performance, which went well enough that the band reformed and returned to both recording and touring until Travers' health issues interrupted their schedule and finally ended with her death. Yarrow also performs, as Peter, Bethany and Rufus, with his daughter Bethany and cellist Rufus Cappadocia. He has organized protests and benefits for civil rights and peace throughout his adult life. He created the Don't Laugh at Me (DLAM) programs, three youth education programs to lessen humiliation and bullying in schools. The materials are distributed by Operation Respect, a non-profit he has devoted most of his time to for the last ten years.
Peter Yarrow quotes:
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- I can't help but react to the painful realities of the two-tiered society we live in, where the signs of poverty and inequity are everywhere. Almost twenty five percent of our children live at or below the poverty line. We expect the no-option life cycle of the poor to be interrupted by the weak social safety net and then wonder why building more jails doesn't solve the problems. permalink
- Most of my work for the past 25 years has been devoted to organizing demonstrations, benefits and campaigns, many of which have had the effect of bringing a policy debate to public focus or moving a political agenda forward. It's become a cliché to say 'think globally and act locally,' but it works. permalink
- People can overcome their differences, and when united, move toward a world of greater fairness and justice. As in folk music, each person has a unique role to play. permalink
- People may say 'What can I do? I'm only one person.' But we've proven that when we come together demonstrate, and speak our piece, there is no way the power structure can avoid being attentive. permalink
- 'Puff (The Magic Dragon)' became metaphorical for a certain spirit because of its proximity to the era or idealism and hope in the '60s. If it had been written in a time of cynicism and selfishness such as this one, perhaps 'Puff' might not have resonated in the same way, save for those who were bemoaning the loss of innocence of their own time. permalink
- Such honesty comes with a price, but when you get past the hurt and shock of realizing that you're faulted and frequently wrong, you also realize that you are really loved and respected for who you are, and you become a better person. permalink
- Such times of crisis have inevitably brought 'music of conscience' to the fore and I expect we will be hearing more and more of it in the immediate future. When people feel empowered to come together and raise their voices, also will mean raising their voices in song as well. permalink
- The ethic behind songs of conscience doesn't change, even though the issues are altered from generation to generation. permalink
- The songs we sing invite the participation of the listener, who is central to finding a way of creating the life of the song at that listening. It's the difference between poetry and didactic writing. One tells you, 'This is it,' and the other says, 'Let's find this together.' permalink
- The songs worked as a different kind of rhetoric, one that could reach the fence-sitters. permalink
- The Village in the early 1960s was a crucible of creativity. Involvement in music was a matter of joyous discovery, not business. We knew that folk music was having an enormous impact in the Village, but was a couple of years away from being embraced on a national scale. permalink
- We're part of a long train ride. permalink
- We've lived through a time in which people have felt they could forge their own future and make a better world. We may not have achieved our dreams in the time frame that we once believed was realistic, but the magnitude of what is yet to be achieved only confirms the importance of our commitment. Knowing this, we can't stop now. permalink
- When people sing together, community is created. Together we rejoice, we celebrate, we mourn and we comfort each other. Through music, we reach each others hearts and souls. Music allows us to find a connection. permalink
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