What America needs now

  It’s the hammer of justice                                                                                                                                         It’s the bell of freedom                                                                                                                                             It’s the song about love between                                                                                                                           My brothers and my sisters                                                                                                                                     All over this land                                                                                                                                                                              – from the song “If I Had A Hammer” by Peter, Paul and Mary

th-1Last Saturday night I had the privilege of attending a concert featuring the Peter and Paul version of Peter, Paul and Mary — Mary having passed away seven years ago last September. She was sorely missed — their signature sound being such a tight blend of three voices that together made one indivisible tonal experience. So as much as you tried to hear the old Peter, Paul and Mary sounds in your ear again, it was impossible, because there was a huge hole in the middle — the one that pulled it all together.

I can remember in high school forming a Peter, Paul and Mary group, only ours was Jim, John and Gail, and how hard it was to pick out the parts because their voices were so tightly woven and so complimentary to each other. 

At one point in the concert, Peter announced they were going to sing their #1 hit, “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” which featured Mary’s voice in a solo capacity, and Peter suggested that the audience play the role of Mary, while he and Noel (Paul) played themselves. The end result was as close as they got to that signature sound all night, and I don’t know about anyone else there, but when the audience sang, “I’m leavin’ on a jet plane; don’t know when I’ll be back again,” I’m sure I heard Mary’s voice in there somewhere.

Peter also suggested that we put our arms around our neighbor on the second chorus and rock side to side the way used to do at peace rallies, and we did, all the way through to the end of the song. Then when the song was over, he asked us all to turn and look directly and deliberately into the eyes of the person we just had our arms around and ask ourselves if it really matters how they voted in the last election. It was a healing moment and capsulized the whole concert which was surprisingly political in that it was geared to get us all beyond politics.

I realized later, I should not have been surprised because Peter, Paul and Mary have always been a protest group. They were against the war in Vietnam; they were against segregation; they sang in civil rights marches, and they sang at the Washington monument prior to Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

So Saturday night, Peter and Paul were still protesting, it’s just that now they are protesting partisanship, division, hatred, bullying, isolationism, fear, and the use of religion to bash or exclude anyone. They not only protested; they offered solutions to the problems they pointed out in love, respect, and in support of justice for all. I am so wishing that everyone in America could have seen this concert, because it is just what we all need. For Peter and Paul, it is truly still “the song about love between my brothers and my sisters, all over this land.”

(Concluding with two new verses to “America the Beautiful” by Noel Paul Stookey.)

Oh, nation of the immigrant                                                                                                                                  The slave and native son                                                                                                                                    Whose loyal families labor still                                                                                                                           That we may live as one                                                                                                                                 America, America                                                                                                                                                 Renew thy founder’s call                                                                                                                                         Let liberty and justice be                                                                                                                                       The right of one and all

  Oh bountiful of forest green,                                                                                                                                     Of lake and fertile lands                                                                                                                                     Where seeds of hope are tended by                                                                                                                     Thy sons and daughters hands                                                                                                                     America, America                                                                                                                                                     The earth still calls to thee                                                                                                                               Where human life and nature strive                                                                                                                     To live in harmony

 America, America                                                                                                                                                      God shed His grace on thee                                                                                                                                    And crown thy good with brotherhood                                                                                                            From sea to shining sea

Today’s Challenge: Just try to listen/watch this song without shedding a tear.

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4 Responses to What America needs now

  1. A very special trio. And national treasure.

  2. Mark Seguin says:

    Loved today’s Catch and like to add an Amen

  3. Karen G. says:

    It doesn’t surprise me that Noel (Paul) writes additional words to familiar songs. My husband and I knew his uncle, who was a pastor. The Rev. Dr. Laurence Hull Stookey wrote words for some of our well-known–and loved–hymns that captured a more contemporary feel. I understand that Noel sang at his uncle’s funeral. Wish I could have been there…

  4. Lisa in Sunland says:

    The song you supplied the link to was very moving! Thank you for sharing.

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