2017-02-16 / On the Town

Yarrow carries on legacy of folk trio

CONCERT PREVIEW /// Peter, Paul and Mary
By Cary Ginell

Peter Yarrow Peter Yarrow The members of Grammywinning folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary were an integral part of the political and social upheaval of the 1960s. They weren’t afraid to sing their conscience, performing songs that promoted humanity, hope and activism.

Despite the 2009 death of bandmate Mary Travers, Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey are carrying on the group’s legacy. They’re set to perform as a duo Feb. 17 in the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza’s Kavli Theatre.

Today, as the country struggles to find common ground after a fractious presidential election, Yarrow believes Peter, Paul and Mary’s fans need the group more than ever.

“Noel and I haven’t sung together since the election,” Yarrow told the Acorn recently. “When I go out as a solo, or with Noel, and I think this will occur when we perform in Thousand Oaks, we realize that people’s tummies are hurting and their bodies are showing the anxiety and the fear that’s come into being.

“In the same way they looked to Peter, Paul and Mary for some kind of gathering of hearts and spirits, they’re dipping back into history. We are being given an opportunity to help in that way, to say simply, ‘We are here.’”

Yarrow and his bandmates did their best to help in the ’60s, championing peace over war and pushing hard to help advance the civil rights movement. They performed during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech.

Yarrow’s socially conscious spirit has rubbed off on his daughter, Bethany. During last month’s Women’s March on Washington, she sang a new song, “Lift Us Up,” which she co-wrote with her dad.

Yarrow’s activism burns just as fervently as it used to, but at 78, he recognizes a change in his attitude as an artist.

“I’m very much the same person, but I see things more from the perspective of gratitude than I used to,” he said. “I can draw upon my history in meaningful ways. That gives me a certain level of humility that I didn’t have when I was younger.”

Yarrow talked about Travers and how her death, from leukemia at the age of 72, has affected the group’s sound.

“After Mary passed, the interesting thing is that the same spirit and sensibility that we shared as a threesome is the sensibility that Noel and I share when we’re on stage,” Yarrow said. “In fact, it’s so much the spirit and the voice of Peter, Paul and Mary that when we sing together, sometimes people swear that they actually hear Mary’s voice. That having been said, she is greatly missed. The good news is that the music continues and the impulse to share this kind of music is going to sustain, whether it’s top-of-the-charts or not.”

Yarrow is not a fan of Donald Trump. But despite his passionate feelings about the election, Yarrow is philosophical about the divided nature of the country.

“We must not reject each other as human beings because we voted differently,” he explained. “We must find common ground and agree to disagree, with civility. But where there is injustice, we must attack with every fiber of our being.

“‘If I Had a Hammer’ says very clearly, here is the task. We must hammer out danger, we must hammer out a warning, because if we don’t, liberty and justice will erode and disappear.”

In Thousand Oaks, Yarrow said, he and Stookey will present many of Peter, Paul and Mary’s biggest hits. They’re also planning to perform a pair of lesser-known songs: the Yarrow-penned “Don’t Ever Take Away My Freedom” and a cover of Woody Guthrie’s “Plane Wreck at Los Gatos (Deportee).”

“The music carries the message, but the message will be clear,” Yarrow said. “We know that the fight will go on but others will be holding up the banner.”

Yarrow and Stookey will perform at 8 p.m. Fri., Feb. 17 at Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. Tickets, $41 to $66, are available in person at the box office or through Ticketmaster, (800) 745- 3000 or www.ticketmaster.com.

For more information, call (805) 449-2787 or visit www.civicartsplaza.com.

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