Although the onslaught of the Beatles and other British favorites catapulted a new type of music to the top of the charts, Peter, Paul and Mary remained popular through the ’60s. In 1970, after releasing their greatest hits album, Ten Years Together, they decided it was time to split. Mary recorded and released five solo albums. Stookey formed a Christian singing group, and today, he says, he “tours modestly, tracing folk music through political life into spiritual expression.” Yarrow remained politically active, supporting a number of different causes. The trio reunited for an anti-nuclear concert at the Hollywood Bowl in 1978 and, on a limited basis, continued to perform around the world until Mary died of complications from chemotherapy associated with a bone marrow transplant she had several years ago after developing leukemia.
In what he calls today’s “mean-spirited society,” Yarrow finds no equivalent of Peter, Paul and Mary, though he remains a loyal fan of Sting, Bruce Springsteen and Bono, “wonderful and powerful performers” who employ their talent to better mankind.
“The time doesn’t allow it. It’s all about money and degradation,” he says. “Music is a business. It doesn’t nurture careers or appeal to a mass audience. Hip-hop does not tell a story. It’s not reaching hearts and souls. It’s not calling people to a higher cause.”
For Yarrow, life is about “loving and serving each other.” Over the years his concern for children led him to create Operation Respect, which he calls his all-consuming passion. A nonprofit now serving 22,000 schools across America, it aims to alleviate the bullying and humiliation many students endure. “We’ve got to stop the cycle of hatred and fear,” he says, expressing a belief in the ability of the arts, especially folk music, to influence both humanity and the empathy of society.
“This is the most active and energetic period of my life,” he says. “I’m living all my hopes and dreams. I have the greatest sense of gratitude that for almost 50 years my time and efforts have been spent wisely and well.”
Then he emphasizes the point. “Truly, I’m living my golden dreams.”
Sandra McElwaine lives in Washington, D.C.