I have a vivid memory from my second semester of college: I am sitting in my rickety chair in Curtiss Hall right before my Zoology 101 final when suddenly it occurs to me that I am no doubt the only one in the room whose iPod is playing Peter, Paul, and Mary. That probably seems like a suspiciously relevant memory, but then again, why would I make that up and how would I come up with that? I have a history with the group, and was lucky enough to see them in concert a few different times as a kid, so I could not pass up the opportunity to see Peter Yarrow at the Temple yesterday evening.
The show got off to a bit of a slow start as the 70+ Yarrow ambled to the microphone and blanked on the words to the opening song “Music Speaks Louder Than Words.” Thankfully, he quickly found his rhythm and the audience, already devotees, happily went along for the ride. The set flowed easily between the familiar and the lesser known, with classics such as “Leavin’ on a Jet Plane” and “Puff the Magic Dragon” being played alongside “Greenwood” and “The Golden Vanity.” Though the passage of time is noticeable - his voice is not as clear and resonant as it once was – Yarrow still personifies the passionate crusader, using music to reach the masses.
There was mention of politics and the Occupy movements, which the decidedly left leaning crowd ate up like candy. And though it may be tempting to pass off a show like his as simply nostalgia, Yarrow rightfully points out that though the music came to the forefront during the activist movements of the 1960s, the messages of the songs are just as relevant today. The Civil Rights movement that is taught in school may have ended, but in many ways, as the Occupy movement has recently brought forth, it is far from over, it has simply evolved.
|Peter, Paul and Mary|
Yarrow provided plenty of commentary between songs, and it became clear through his discussion about his organization Operation Respect, an organization whose impetus is due in part to the song “Don’t Laugh at Me,” that he is fully engaged with the notion that it is not too late to teach respect. While the lyrics of “Don’t Laugh at Me” are centered around schoolchildren and Operation Respect is a program for schools, the lesson of the song is just as applicable, if not more so, to adults. Many of the songs became sing-alongs and Yarrow, the fearless choir director, simply strummed the guitar and fed the words. A mid-set medley that included classics such as “This Little Light of Mine” and Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” really got the audience going.
The stripped down format, Yarrow had only his guitar and his son Christopher on the washtub bass, worked well in the intimate setting at the Temple. Several times he asked that the lights be brought up so he could pick out the youngsters - hard to find at this particular show - the educators, and others. Yarrow's rapport with the audience added comfort and heightened the power of the music. No one walked away disappointed, except at the fact that the show had come to an end.