“We’re part of a long train ride,” is the way Peter Yarrow visualizes the many events that have highlighted a career spanning more than five decades. With characteristic care, Yarrow places the success he’s had within a greater context, seeing his accomplishments as part of a tradition, to be credited as his inspiration and carried on. “When I was in high school,” he recalls, “I heard The Weavers at Carnegie Hall singing songs like ‘If I Had a Hammer’ ‘Follow The Drinking Gourd’ and ‘Wasn’t That a Time.’ I was stunned by the extraordinary effect that music of conscience can have on people, particularly when they sing songs of conscience together.” That lesson launched Peter on a lifelong journey that is now, perhaps, in its most vital phase.
Over the years, many issues have moved Peter to commit his time and talent: equal rights, peace, the environment, gender equality, homelessness, hospice care, public broadcasting and education. All have utilized his skills as both a performer and an organizer. Along with his singing partners, (Noel) Paul and Mary, Peter became deeply committed to the Civil Rights Movement, which brought them to Washington in 1963 to sing at the historic August 28, 1963 March On Washington led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as the equally historic Selma-Montgomery March in 1965. When the Civil Rights Movement merged its efforts into the Peace/Anti-Vietnam War Movement, Peter produced numerous large events including peace concerts at Madison Square Garden and Shea Stadium with tens of performers. These efforts culminated in his co-organizing with Cora Weiss, his friend and ally and a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, the famous 1969 “Celebration of Life”, a march and demonstration in Washington, DC attended by a half-million people who demanded an end to America’s military involvement in Vietnam.
Though much of Peter’s activism has been directed toward the social/political arena, Peter has also been active on behalf of more personal projects such as the Hospice Movement. He is a board member of the Connecticut Hospice, the first hospice established in the United States, where he periodically sings for patients and staff and for whom he has been a voice of media advocacy for over two decades. Also, in 1996, Peter founded the “Save One Child” Fund, now centered at Roosevelt Hospital’s Institute of Neurology and Neurosurgery (INN) in New York City. Over the last fifteen years, Save One Child has provided free interventional radiological and neuro-surgical treatment, saving the lives of over 200 children who have been brought from all over the world with their families, all expenses paid.
A concert by Peter, today, is exciting, moving and also entertaining but it is also an event that follows in the tradition of his early mentors, The Weavers and Pete Seeger. Peter intentionally uses his music to create a community of acceptance from the stage, an “oasis of peace” as he calls it. His gift for songwriting has produced some of the most poignant songs Peter, Paul & Mary have recorded, including “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” “Day is Done,” “Light One Candle,” and “The Great Mandala.”
As a member of the renowned musical trio, he has earned many gold and platinum albums and has been awarded and nominated for numerous Grammys.