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Products of the Mind




Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary on Music, Activism, and Puff the Magic Dragon

Welcome to Episode 21 of Products of the Mind. On this episode, I speak with musician and activist Peter Yarrow.

“I wasn’t about being the center of attention that was so exciting and rewarding. There was a magic going on in the village at the time…This was a crucible of change where in the air was this spirit that something dramatically was changing. Something was going to happen in the world to challenge all the points of view with which we had been handed society’s rules… The sixties was a search for authenticity.”

Today we speak with Peter Yarrow, musician, activist, and member of Peter Paul and Mary. It’s always fascinating to learn about how musicians and artists get inspired, and Peter’s story does not miss the mark.

Peter takes us back to his childhood as a Jewish New Yorker and the strong cultural influence his mother had on him. From not having money for new clothes, but always having money for arts and culture, Peter takes us back to his first instrument…the recorder, and how his love of folk music stemmed from his mom’s 78 records by musicians such as Paganini, Josh White, and Burl Ives.

Peter tells us about teaching English as an undergrad at Cornell, and how singing in the classroom helped catapult his love for music and community. Learn about how musical inspirations such as the Everly Brothers, The Weavers, and Pete Seeger influenced the folk group that became Peter, Paul, and Mary.

Peter describes the seemingly magical time in 60’s Greenwich Village, a place of musical inspiration and hope social and political change. Peter discusses the role of music and musicians in social activism, and how society attempts to restrict the art of music during times of social upheaval. Hear about how the Red Scare influenced artists and musicians when the threat of communism was at the social and political center stage; and naturally how those musicians fought back.

Of course we couldn’t talk with Peter and not ask about Puff the Magic Dragon. What is the song about? What is the inspiration behind the music? Get the answer straight from the source, and so much more on today’s episode.

Peter’s Homepage

Operation Respect

Honorable mentions from this Episode:

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The Credits

Products of the Mind is produced by Mana Monzavi.

The illustration accompanying these show notes is by Whit Harris.

The theme music for this episode was provided by Le Chateau. The track name is “Bury You.” Go buy it on Soundcloud!

This episode and these show notes © 2016 David Lizerbram

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