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
Last 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.