“Turn, Turn, Turn," which you wrote, is from Ecclesiastes. Do you turn to the Bible for inspiration?

I was leafing through it when I came on that poem. I just leafed through it by chance. Maybe God led me to it. Who knows?

I leaf through it quite often--if only to shake my head in disgust. I quote Leviticus to people who think that every word in the Bible is absolutely gospel and you need to obey every word. In Leviticus it says you must kill a bull if you’re going to really love God. And you must kill it in a certain way, or else you will be killed.

You’ve been married to your wife Toshi for 60 years now?

It’s 63 years.

What’s the secret of your long marriage?

Well, a sense of humor helps, and I think perhaps the fact that even though I was away for long periods of time, I did come home. Her lifelong joke has been, “If Peter would only chase women instead of chasing causes, I’d have an excuse to leave him.” But my big failing is starting this and starting that, and I’m unable to finish. Some of the things worked out well like the Clearwater project. But there’s more than I would like to admit starting that did not turn out. Spent an awful lot of money…we brought an early tape-recording machine that cost $7000, that was a lot of money then. [Toshi speaks in the background. “It cost $15,000.”] Oh, Toshi says it cost $15,000.  It was a waste of time. Several times I’d dash into things before they really worked out. You might say dashing into communism before it worked out.

But the Clearwater did work out.

Largely because I retired [laughs].

Do you have a favorite prayer?

Well, songs. I wrote a nice song once. [Sings] “Early in the morning I first see the sun, say a little prayer for the world./ Hope all the little children live a long, long time, yes every little boy and little girl./ Hope they learn to laugh at the way some precious old words seem to change,/ because that’s what life is all about—to arrange and rearrange and rearrange./ O-ee, o-eye, to rearrange and rearrange and rearrange.”

Now for a while this was my favorite song, I sang it everywhere. However Toshi didn’t really approve of it because it involved getting the audience to sing a four-letter word before the song is over. Oh, here’s the thing that may save the human race  [sings]: “The key word may be little, /we only have to eat a little bit,/ eat a little food, drink a little drink,/ and only have to shit a little shit…” I got 3,000 Quakers singing this once. I didn’t get asked back. However, I’m still on good terms with the man who got me there, Peter Blood. A Quaker, he and his wife put together “Rise Up Singing.” It’s Sing Out’s best seller. That book has kept the magazine alive. It’s sold a million copies now. To people like us, that’s astronomical. I believe that best writing I’ve every done in my life is the introduction to that book.

Do you think there’s an afterlife?

On the Afterlife
Well, you might consider this. When Toshi and I had our first child who died when it was only six months old, I was in the army, my father wrote me and said, “I don’t think I could cheer you up in the usual way. But remember this, that something good that has happened can never be made to unhappen.” That’s a nice way of putting it, don’t you think? Something that has happened can never be made to unhappen.