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Peter Yarrow returns to Folk Fest crusading for civility

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STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
bbingaman@21st-centurymedia.com
@brianbingaman on Twitter

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has Peter Yarrow’s back up.
Taking time out from a recording session with his daughter’s musical group, Bethany & Rufus, Yarrow said that they were working on the folk song “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream,” and a song about the presidential candidate that the 78-year-old liberal social activist joked had a profanity every other word.
Trump is why Yarrow’s dusting off Peter, Paul and Mary’s “Listen Mr. Bilbo,” from the trio’s 1990 album “Flowers and Stones,” for his Saturday set at the Folk Fest. Originally written in 1946 about an openly racist senator from Louisiana, Yarrow sang the chorus in the jaunty, swinging way the group had recorded it: “Listen while I tell you the foreigners you hate/are the very same people that made America great.”
One of Yarrow’s recent compositions, “The Children Are Listening,” can be heard on the website for his international anti-bullying/conflict resolution initiative, Operation Respect. “I wrote it during the Republican primary,” he said.
Sharing that he plans to perform the song as a sing-along, he sang a snippet: “If we say something cruel and harsh, they’ll do the same. If they grow up to be bullies, we’ll have ourselves to blame.”
He also promised “Puff (the Magic Dragon)” and the Bob Dylan-penned “Blowin’ in the Wind,” which were Peter, Paul and Mary’s two biggest hits outside of the No. 1 smash “Leaving on a Jet Plane.”
Of continuing the Peter, Paul and Mary legacy — Mary Travers passed away in 2009 — Yarrow said the group was committed “to create a planet that’s more just and more fair.”
“The world is in a very dangerous place right now. So in that sense, you can say your work is never done. It’s not that it’s a burden; it’s a joy, it’s a privilege,” he said.
The group had such a successful run in the ‘60s, he said, because “Mary was clearly the most charismatic on stage. Noel Paul (Stookey) was always looking for the spiritual place in terms of when the group needed songs. I was the organizer of the efforts, particularly in the political arena.”
When asked about the change in musical tastes after the British Invasion, he pointed to the difference between The Beatles’ early singles and the “songs of substance” in 1965’s “Rubber Soul.” “What I’m grateful for is folk music so thematically influenced The Beatles, and that was a lot to do with them meeting Bob Dylan,” Yarrow said.
Although Peter, Paul and Mary “was like a marriage,” he said there were no romantic affairs within the group. Stookey’s solo hit “The Wedding Song (There is Love)” was written to bless Yarrow’s wedding in 1971.
Yarrow also found success in the ‘70s as the co-writer of “Torn Between Two Lovers,” the chart-topping single by Mary McGregor. “My wife said: ‘Why don’t you write a song about the conflict that was in ‘Dr. Zhivago?’,” he recalled.

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