Folk singer Peter Yarrow, heading to Park City, believes the nation needs folk music
Folk singer and political activist Peter Yarrow will perform at 8 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 31, and Saturday, Sept. 1, and at 6 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 2, at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St. Tickets range from $29 to $45 and can be purchased by visiting www.parkcityshows.com.
Folk singer and musician Peter Yarrow, who turned 80 this year, has no intention of slowing down.
The man who, along with his Peter, Paul and Mary compatriots – Noel “Paul” Stookey and the late Mary Travers – used music to shed light on social injustice in the world during the 1960s said folk music is more important now than ever as the country stares at a fundamental divide some worry is unbridgeable.
“As you may suspect, I’m not standing on the sidelines, bemoaning the seriousness of the challenges we’re encountering as a country,” said Yarrow, who will perform Aug. 31 through Sept. 2 at the Egyptian Theatre. “I think that we are all going to have to deal with the fact that perhaps the biggest danger is to allow ourselves to become separated, fragmented and in opposition with each other.”
That division, he said, is the “surest way, historically, that governments seek to destroy any semblance of democracy in order for them to operate.”
“If you can prevent people from banding together when something mutually seen as a threat, you can do egregious things that aren’t the substance of the disagreement,” he said.
One of those things he cites include the separation of migrant children from their parents, a policy which the Trump administration has ramped up.
“During ordinary times we would all be horrified,” Yarrow said. “But now, (Trump supporters’) answer to the issue is ‘why are you giving our president a hard time for doing this?’ Or, ‘You’re not giving him a chance.’”
Those answers are not about the issue at hand, and can lead the country to a dangerous situation, according to Yarrow.
“If we want to be set up for the kind of division that allowed Nazism to evolve, we should just continue on our merry way,” he said.
When Yarrow performs in Park City, he will address those issues, and said he will do it in a humanistic way.
“I will talk about ethical human perspectives that should apply to anybody who embraces the idea of what American should and can be, and what human beings should and can be,” he said. “I won’t politicize these things in the sense that I will excoriate Trump and those who voted for him. But I would also argue that folk music, in this context as you will see when I perform, is more needed and powerfully effective more than ever in how it brings people together.”
While Yarrow’s concerts are what he calls “Peace on Stage,” he is also working on other projects, including a documentary film about a group called Better Angels.
Better Angels, which is named after a term in President Abraham Lincoln’s inaugural presidential speech, is a bipartisan group that is on a mission to bring the right and left together to mend political polarization in the United States, he said.
The divide has been widened by social media, echo chambers and wealth inequality, according to Yarrow.
“We have social media, which, quite apart from anyone’s intention, has separated people from one another in terms of the contact they used to have,” he said. “We have the advent of the echo chambers of the media where people can just reconfirm their feelings and not consider other ideas.”
The third development is the failure of the two-party system to protect democracy, Yarrow said.
“I would argue that we have more of an oligarchy rather than a democracy,” he said. “The people are making important decisions that are not the will of the people, but the will of big businesses and the wealthy.”
The documentary was inspired by a Better Angels event that was held in South Lebanon, Ohio, a few weeks after the 2016 presidential election, in a city where 80 percent of the citizens voted for Donald Trump, Yarrow said.
Better Angels founder and President David Blankenhorn and Facilitator Bill Doherty conducted a series of sessions that included eight left- and eight right-leaning participants, according to Yarrow.
“Bill guided the sessions so all the participants would really listen to each other, and the results were startling,” Yarrow said. “They all became friends and exploded the mythologies of the stereotypes regarding each other they had embraced.”
When Yarrow, who has a degree in psychology, heard of the outcome, he told Blankenhorn he wanted to make a documentary.
“That’s how that came about, and we’re deciding on how to distribute it,” Yarrow said.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
Country singer-songwriter Hayes Carll said he relates to the songs on his most recent album “What It Is” than those he has written in the past.