Some Things Change, Some Things Stay the Same
I had never seen Noel Paul Stookey (“Paul” of Peter, Paul & Mary) perform as a solo artist, unless you consider the war protests he led in my hometown during the late ’60s and early ’70s. I had no idea what to expect – would he perform that trio’s songs or his own? I was pleased that the show consisted mostly of his own music so I could become reacquainted with this much-loved musician.
Still spry at the age of 77, Stookey took the stage and told us that if we had come to the show expecting to hear “that trio’s” music, we would be sorely disappointed. As I looked around the sold-out room, I did not see anything but smiles.
Noel bantered with us as if we were his personal house guests. “You get into an intimate crowd like this and the temptation is to share everything,” he said, as he did just that. He joked with us about being forgetful and still being a carpetbagger in Maine, although he has lived there for 45 years. “Cabin Fever Waltz” is a song he was asked to write for the town of Kingsfield, Maine — an honor that surprises him to this day. He told us about how the songs came to be written.
I did not know that he wrote the ubiquitous (at least in the ’70s and ’80s) “Wedding Song” for Peter Yarrow’s wedding and that the original contained slightly different lyrics. He sang it this night as it was originally written, from a first-person perspective. It is a beautiful song, still capable of bringing a tear to my eye.
Stookey is still an activist and protest singer; after all, isn’t that one of the traditions of folk music? Today’s issues are different than when he first came to prominence, and he is just as passionately involved with the environment and politics these days as he was with politics and civil rights during the Vietnam War era. Some of the issues about which he sang are immigration, nuclear weaponry (“nukes are nuts”), virtual parties, and even the Holocaust.
For his encore, Stookey performed “If I Had a Hammer,” Pete Seeger’s anthem made popular by the trio. This was a fitting tribute to Seeger, and a wonderful end to an evening that took me back in time.
Click here to see photos of this show.