Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary Kicks Off Series on Landmark Political Events of the '60s

April 23, 2010

April 23, 2010 — Launching a new Golden Anniversary Series, the University of Virginia Center for Politics will host legendary musician Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul and Mary fame, on April 28 at 8 p.m. in Old Cabell Hall.

Yarrow will speak about how the music of the 1960s influenced and reflected the politics of the era. He will also give a live performance of several of his well-known hit songs from the era, such as "Puff, the Magic Dragon," "Blowin' in the Wind," and "Leaving on a Jet Plane."

Free tickets must be picked up in person (maximum of six tickets per person) at the U.Va. Arts Box Office, open weekdays from noon to 5 p.m, in the lobby of the Drama Building at 109 Culbreth Road.

Yarrow's performance will kick off a new decade-long Center for Politics series commemorating the landmark political events of the 1960s. The Golden Anniversary Series will include programs, symposia, television documentaries, public lectures, travel opportunities and teaching resources.

"The 1960s are turning 50," said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics. "The Golden Anniversary Series will commemorate the great themes, movements and moments of JFK's White House years and the decade that followed."
When Peter, Paul and Mary's self-titled debut album was released in 1962, it skyrocketed to the Billboard Magazine Top Ten, where it remained for 10 months (and in the Top 20 for two years), eventually selling more than 2 million copies. Yarrow has earned five Grammys and an Emmy nomination. He has recorded eight gold and five platinum albums.

In 1963, Yarrow marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Ala., and Washington, D.C., and helped organize the famous 1969 March on Washington.

During the last decade, Yarrow has devoted himself primarily to the work of heading Operation Respect, an educational non-profit he founded to assure children and youth caring, safe, and respectful climates of learning.

"The political events of the 1960s forever altered American society in both positive and negative ways," Sabato said. "Beginning with the first televised presidential debates between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960 all the way through Woodstock and the moon landing of 1969, the 1960s were among the most politically transformative years in American history. The music of Peter, Paul and Mary influenced the national psyche during the 1960s and remains emblematic of that decade."

Timed to coincide with the 50th anniversaries of key political and social events that occurred in each year of the 1960s, the Center for Politics' Golden Anniversaries Series will reflect on and carefully examine the legacies of each event. Topics will include the Kennedy-Nixon debates, landmark civil rights marches and speeches, Kennedy's assassination in 1963, Barry Goldwater's presidential campaign in 1964, the Vietnam War, the start of Ronald Reagan's political career and the election of Richard Nixon, with many more covered along the way.

"Fifty years is just about right for a true retrospective," Sabato said. "Enough time has passed so that a fuller truth can be told. Some firsthand participants are still alive to add to recorded history. Older Americans will want to remember, partly for nostalgia, partly to put the headlines of their early life into proper perspective. Younger Americans will want to ask what these long ago headlines can teach us about the present and future. This last question is by far the most crucial, and the real goal of the series."
In addition to public events, the Center for Politics will create new lesson plans and other teaching resources for distribution through its national network of teachers who participate in the Center for Politics' Youth Leadership Initiative.

The Center for Politics is also coordinating related events with partner organizations, including the Nixon Foundation, the Kennedy Library, Harvard University's Institute of Politics, PBS Community Ideas Stations, the U.Va. Art Museum, the Virginia Film Festival and others yet to be announced.