Peter Yarrow may be 77, but like his “inspiration,” Pete Seeger, remains an active performer and advocate.
Seeger’s professional career began as one-third of Peter, Paul and Mary, the folksinging trio that debuted on vinyl in 1962, and for which he wrote or co-wrote some its best-known songs, including “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” “Day is Done” and “The Great Mandala.”
Yarrow released a four-volume illustrated children’s book and music series over the past decade, including classic sing-along-songs, and in 1997 co-founded Operation Respect, which seems to foster bully-free environments in schools and camps. He’s also continued to perform, sometimes with children Bethany and Christopher, and occasionally Noel Paul Stookey, the other surviving member of Peter, Paul & Mary (Mary Travers died in 2009).
On Friday, Yarrow leaves his New York City home on the upper West Side to perform at 8 p.m. in Asbury Hall at Babeville (341 Delaware Ave.), accompanied by Christopher on washtub bass. Mustard Retreat opens. Yarrow will mix in stories about the music and their relevancy for today, and play requests during the second half of the show.
Yarrow has lots of good stories to tell halfway through his sixth decade as a musician.
Take “Blowin’ in the Wind,” for instance, a song they had a hit with in 1963 by a still largely unheralded Bob Dylan.
“Bob was virtually unknown, and that was the first exposure he had to the general public when it peaked on the charts a week before the March on Washington,” Yarrow said. Dylan, with Joan Baez, and Peter, Paul & Mary all performed that day.
“Bob’s music and content were not suited to be hit parade material,” Yarrow said. “In today’s world, music of conscience is still marginalized in the extreme. He wouldn’t do so well on ‘American Idol,’ ” he laughed.
Yarrow said folksinging maintains a time-honored tradition of bringing people together.
“John Lewis (the longtime Georgian congressman) famously has said the civil rights movement without songs would have been a bird without wings,” Yarrow said in a recent phone interview. “It’s not just a frivolous addendum.”
He added: “So many people my age don’t feel useful or can make a contribution, and I feel like a kid just starting out whenever I get on stage.”
Yarrow is particularly proud of the work Operation Respect does. His involvement began after hearing the song “Don’t Laugh At Me,” which he frequently sings and directs to the children in attendance.
“Our program is effective in reducing bullying and ridicule and emotional violence, and even physical violence,” Yarrow said.
He said its work has reached 22,000 schools in the United States, and 63 percent of schools in Israel, helping there to foster acceptance between different religions and ethnicities.
“Conflicts from the past don’t have to be reignited with revenge,” Yarrow said. “The curriculum creates an awareness of how painful it is to be hurt, put down and ostracized.”
Children – frequently brought by grandparents who remember Yarrow fondly – are often in attendance at his concerts.
That pleases him greatly.
“I love singing to kids, but I’ve always loved singing to kids,” said Yarrow, a grandfather.
When: 8 p.m. Nov. 20
Where: Asbury Hall at Babeville, 341 Delaware Ave.
Tickets: $30 advance, $35 day of show