Yesterday, I had the opportunity to ride the way back machine in both directions in the presence of a multi-generational audience that sang, danceed, swayed, clapped, smiled and laughed with delight to the words and music of septugenarian musician and consummate storyteller Peter Yarrow. He was appearing at the Doylestown Book Shop, which is a treasure in the Bucks County suburbs. It is a frequent gathering place for the word loving community and each time I go there, I’m fairly certain I will run into people I know. This snow melting Monday morning was no exception as I hung out with my cousin and a few friends as our blast from the past experience was about to begin. This still energetic, cool, gracefully aging hippie (I count myself in that fold too) was touring in support of his new kids’ book called I’m In Love With A Big Blue Frog. Although the coffeee table sized book was freshly born, it is based on the lyrics to a song penned by Les Braunstein (lead singer of Blue Oyster Cult in 1967) and performed for the first time that same year when I was but 9 years old, by the legendary trio Peter, Paul and Mary. I had the joy of interviewing Paul Stookey back in the 1990’s and sadly, never had the same opportunity of speaking with Mary Travers who passed in 2009 of Leukemia. For those who are not familiar, their most famous (and may playfully raise eyebrows of those of a certain age who question its meaning:) song is Puff The Magic Dragon. It is 50 years old and a favorite of kids of all ages. On this particular day, it was the closing song to the mini-concert with mini to maxi back up singers lending our voices to the choir.
The book and the song that were the reason for celebration for what looked like several hundred shiny, happy people is a call for racial equality as well as relationship equality, since it highlights a red haired freckle faced human woman whose choice of partner is a lanky 6’4″ irridescently hued amphibian whose “mother was a frog from Philadelphia, His daddy an enchanted prince.” The gorgeous illustrations come from the imagination of University of Hartford grad, who earned his M.F.A., Joshua Brunet. They are whimsically and brightly hued depictions of people and animals who stare and point, grimace and scowl at the happy couple, since their beliefs are fear induced, rather than notice the love that flows between these two. The beautifully packaged book also contains a 3 song CD with I’m In Love With A Big Blue Frog, The Froggy Went A’ Courtin and Inside. Each one is sing-along-able for kids of all ages, and they focus on open hearted loving, regardless of appearance and what’s on the outside.
Known for their fervent support of civil rights causes, Peter, Paul and Mary sang out for love and reconciliation, rather than just against hatred and bigotry. Their anthemic song, If I Had A Hammer is the perfect example….”I’d hammer out the love between my brothers and my sisters….all over this land” (followed by a string of oooh oooh’s…my favorite part to this day.
It occurred to me; not a difficult stretch at all, that it could just as easily apply to same sex couples whose fight for equality and acceptance mirrors those of multi-racial couples whose marriages were illegal back when this song was written and sung. An anthem for us all.
http://youtu.be/svoVxWcGNzA I’m In Love With A Big Blue Frog by Peter, Paul and Mary