Thursday, 30 December 2010

An Interview with Peter, Paul and Mary

February 10, 1969

Lantern Staff Writer

Peter, Paul and Mary are three, yet one; they have individuality, yet unity. It shows in their music--as those who attended the group's Friday night concert at St. John Arena will attest--and it shows in their talk.

Paul described the group as "three individuals who get along precisely."

"Peter, Paul and Mary is our life," he said, "or at least seven eights of it. Everything else is peripheral.

"Even when Peter was working on the film 'You Are What You Eat' he was Peter, Paul and Mary first."

Mary explained that the group's unity results, in part, from "the common ethical base we share and express in our music."

"We all may not agree on an issue initially, but we talk it out among ourselves," she said.

The ethical base for their music is what has held the group together for the nine years they have been performing, she said.

"It is impossible to say whether we are musicians or social commentators first," she went on. "It is very tied up together with us."

The ethical base also "keeps our music from going stale," she said. "Take a song like 'Blowin' in the Wind,' which is sort of our national anthem. A song like that means so much you don't get tired of it. It means something different with different concerts."

She explained, "When we sang it in the march on Washington the second verse, concerned with civil rights, was the most important. When we performed at a Hiroshima hospital, however, the last anti-war verse held all the meaning."

Mary said that the group's feelings are not expressed in just protest songs or Bob Dylan tunes. "Part of what we believe is expressed in simple, straightforward songs that say something very true about life."

When deciding what to sing from their large repertoire at a given concert, the group does not try to "psych out" the audience, Mary said. "It's not our duty to do that, and besides that's a dangerous game to play."

"You have to sing what you think is right, what you want to sing," she said.

The group once walked off a show where the sponsor tried to tell them what to sing. "A musician must be true to himself and not let some businessman dictate what can be sung," she said.

"Students in state universities have much the same problem," she said. "You have businessmen trying to tell educators and students how to educate, how to run educational institutions."

Mary said she could understand student unrest, but added that she felt the radical left was "really messing itself up."

"The system in our nation is not the best, but it can be changed. Anarchy won't change it, however," she said. "Anarchy will only lead to further repression.

"People who want social change can have it if they are willing to work for it. We've worked hard these nine years for that--and we are going to keep right on doing so."

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