Peter Yarrow lauds '60s, thrills Old Cabell
Peter Yarrow kicked off a decade-long celebration of the 1960s by asserting that they're still relevant–- now more than ever.
"This nation doesn't examine its conscience," the 71-year-old singer/activist told a near-capacity crowd at the kick-off event for what organizer Larry Sabato hopes will be a 10-year assemblage of speakers and events throughout this decade taking note of the seminal '60s that have begun turning 50.
Yarrow regaled the mostly gray-haired crowd in UVA's premiere concert hall with as many stories as songs, like the one about being on stage as part of chart-topping folk trio Peter, Paul & Mary with Martin Luther King Jr. for King's "I Have a Dream" speech.
"Mary took my hand and said, 'We are living history, Peter,'" the performer said. "And she was so right."
A moment earlier, Yarrow stopped himself mid-song to feign amazement as a large orb of light–- someone's idea of restrained '60s special effects–- panned across the ceiling of the neoclassical concert hall.
Yarrow noted that Old Cabell's acoustics were so good–- "really phenomenal"–- that he didn't really need the microphone. Yet he didn't sing his greatest hit, "Puff, the Magic Dragon," at least not until afterward, when a 10-year old girl appeared backstage bearing her dad's 45rpm record, and he sang a few lines for her.
During the concert, Yarrow debunks the legend that he embedded secret marijuana meanings in the "Puff" lyrics (e.g. "little Jackie Paper"), which falls flat on the reality of his own square upbringing. He said he was just 22 when he co-wrote "Puff."
"Later, I could have written the song," he told the crowd, "but at the time I didn't have the information."