There's no such thing as "protesting too much" for Noel Paul Stookey of the legendary '60s folk group Peter, Paul and Mary. Just as he started doing 50 years ago, he's writing and performing socially conscious music at small clubs around the country, including his pointed warning about the environment called In These Times.
With his daughter, Liz Stookey Sunde, Stookey wants to use the Web to encourage new protest music. They are raising funds now for a $3.8 million initiative called M4SC (Music for Social Change) to encourage and support such music for a new era of issues.
"It will be an opportunity to discover the unity between that which moves you and that which moves so many other people," says Stookey of the Web community he hopes to build. "Then you recognize that you're kind of all in this together."
The legendary folk musician has great faith in the power of music to provoke and inspire. After all, he's seen it happen: at the 1963 March on Washington with Martin Luther King Jr., when Stookey, Peter Yarrow and Mary Travers sang "If I Had a Hammer;" and at 1969's Vietnam War Moratorium demonstration, where thousands of protesters joined Peter, Paul and Mary, Richie Havens and Pete Seeger in singing John Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance."
"Now through media, through technology, we suddenly become aware of the fact that wow, this has not stopped with folk music," says Stookey. "A small song, a small desire to be free, an urgency that makes itself known through a piece of music is first shared with your neighborhood and then the neighborhood goes on a march and they're represented with picket signs … if it resonates, it spreads like wildfire."
Stookey points to a current issue taken on by music. In an annual songwriting contest sponsored by his Public Domain Foundation (the parent organization to M4SC), the top winner last year captured the frustration and fury many are feeling about the economy with "Wall Street Fat Cat Taxpayer Bailout Blues." Sample lyrics by New York bluegrass musician Steve Chizmadia: "I start to feel sick … I feel my appetite fade … when I read 'bout hedge-fund hotshots beggin' for financial aid."