In a previous post, I said I had a better book for you to get. I’d just gotten the book I was talking about. It was published in 2014, and I don’t know how I missed it when it first came out. Now, you can get a used copy for $6.00 ― which is quite a bargain, considering what you’ll get, which will be the history of our teenage years, and our early adulthood. My book came with a bonus ... it was signed by Peter and Noel.
THE FOREWORD to the book was written by John F. Kerry, who was Secretary of State when the book came out. What he said blew me away. I’m sure it will do the same for you too. I wanted you to read what he said, and it wasn’t until now that I’ve had a chance to type his words.
Everyone here should get one of these books … even if you never liked P,P&M. Because, there will come a day when you won’t be able to remember what it was like when we were young, and having this book will tell you what we lived through, and what we lived for. Here’s what Kerry had to say:
I was a college kid on a cold Connecticut night in 1964 when I first heard Mary’s angelic alto. On that night in New Haven and on so many nights over the next five decades, and so many places all over the world, Peter, Paul and Mary’s music asked more of us than the simply sing-along.
The hammer of justice and the bell of freedom-these are more than just lyrics; they were then, and they remain, a call to conscience, and as Peter especially was always reminding me, when something pulls at your conscience, you need to act.
As Peter, Paul and Mary journeyed from coffeehouses and campuses to the Billboard top 40, there could be no doubt that we were all living in turbulent times. But in their harmonies was a magic and message more powerful than a decade of discord and exhilaration.
That is why, after all these years, we returned to the music. That is why when we turn the pages of this incredible book, we are questioned, liberated, and challenged once again.
I know my experience of Peter, Paul and Mary is one that I shared with so many in those years of challenge and transformation. Their music became an anchor: “Blowing in the Wind” as the war in Vietnam escalated. “Leaving on a jet plane” as I left to join the war.
“Puff, the Magic Dragon” as I patrolled the Mekong Delta. Their songs became the soundtrack of my life and of a generation. They change the cultural fabric of this nation forever. Peter, Paul and Mary brought folk music from the shadows of the McCarthy blacklist era to the living rooms and radio stations of every town in America. They gave the world its first listen to young songwriting talents from Bob Dylan to John Denver Gordon Lightfoot to Laura Nyro.
And though their music might stop and the band would break up for years, they never stop marching. They marched for peace, for racial justice, for workers rights. They marched against gun violence, homelessness, and world hunger. They marched for clean air and clean water, against apartheid and nuclear proliferation.
Through both their songs in their struggle, they helped propel our nation on its greatest journey, on the march toward greater equality. With their passion and persistence, Peter, Paul and Mary helped widen the circle of our democracy.
It was at Dr. King’s march on Washington, that Peter, Paul and Mary first performed “Blowing in the Wind.” On that day and for decades thereafter, they made it clear that it was up to all of us to reach for the answer by reaching out to one another and to the world. Their message was not defined by protests but by taking responsibility – taking the risks that piece, the most powerful answer of all, always requires. After the 1960s, those risks left many of us without wounds and battle scars, physical and spiritual, real and metaphorical. We saw too many of our heroes and friends – our flowers – gone to graveyards far too soon. In the years to come, their music helped us to heal.
It was in 1971, at one of the many marches in Washington that Peter, Paul and Mary helped to lead, when I first met Mary. She once told me she was always guided by advice she got from her mother: “Be careful of compromise,” she said. “There is a very thin line between compromise and accomplice.” She wasn’t just speaking about music or even politics. It was a worldview, a philosophy of life – and it was within these pages and in the spirit that Peter and Noel (Paul) continue to share with the audience with audiences around the world, Mary’s spirit endures. But this book is not a tribute to any “time that was,” or even to three incredible people who change music and our lives forever. Instead, it is a testament to what they achieved with their audience, both as musicians and as individuals, as artists and as activists, as Americans and as citizens of the world.
It is also a testament to what’s left undone. The questions that Peter, Paul and Mary pose more than 50 years ago at the March on Washington – how many roads, how many years will it take? – These are still our questions and we still have a responsibility to answer.
That is why the power of Peter, Paul and Mary’s music and their work in the world is enduring. That is why it remains an inspiration for the work to come, for our work together, and for all we hope to leave behind.
One of my favorite Peter, Paul and Mary songs has always been Sweet Savior.” I was moved when Mary saying it for me on my 50th birthday, and then when Peter sang it for me on a cold bus in Iowa in 2003. His words still speak the future, not the past:
Carry on my sweet survivor, carry on my lonely friend.
Don’t give up on the dream, and don’t let it end.
Carry on my sweet survivor, you carried it so long.
So may it come again, carry on, carry on, carry on.
And so as we read this book – and remember the music – we will do it with much more than nostalgia: we do it because Peter, Paul and Mary reminded us still to carry on.
John F. Kerry
US Secretary of State