Tonight, folk legend Noel Paul Stookey (of Peter, Paul and Mary) will play his first solo concert in New York City in 40 years. It’s almost impossible to believe that the man who helped define the sound and spirit of 1960s Greenwich Village music hasn’t played a solo show here since the 1970s.
But Stookey certainly knows how to return in style, coming to the venerable Museum of the City Of New York for his comeback show. The museum, which houses numerous exhibits on New York’s rich history, is currently hosting its “Folk City” exhibition, which brings to life the very scene that Stookey helped forge. Guitars, original lyric sheets and more from the likes of Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger will be on display.
Elmore: Why are you now returning to New York for a solo show, after so much time?
Noel Paul Stookey: I recently attended the folk music of Greenwich Village exhibit in the Museum of the City of New York and was reminded not only of the Village’s role in the expansion of folk music’s legacy nationally and globally, but its particular ethical impact on me, a young rock ‘n’ roll kid from the Midwest. Certainly, since my partner Mary’s passing in 2009, I’ve become increasingly aware of the preciousness of time and have wanted to “close the circle” with NYC, revisit the scene of my musical beginnings.
EM: What does it mean to be back in New York, such a unique place for musicians?
NPS: How can you live in Manhattan and not love the diversity of the place?! New York City has always been the home of the eclectic—and in this era of the “niche” artist (categorized as either a folkie, a rocker, a country singer, a rapper, etc.)—it’s such a joy to perform in Manhattan, where labels are not the whole story. I write and sing political songs supported by jazz chords, spiritual songs for a cappella and folk songs to rock ‘n’ roll accompaniment. What’s not to love about a place that says “bring it on” to that?!
EM: Why the Museum of the City of New York, and what’s on the horizon for you?
NPS: I grew up in that period of time in the city when Greenwich Village was the new center of the old music; the songs of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, the Weavers and Josh White were reaching for the American dream of equity. So, to be asked by MCNY to bring my musical appreciation of these giants is a great honor.
These are testing times in which we live—geopolitically, environmentally and spiritually—and on the horizon (actually arriving this month) is the release of my new CD/DVD titled At Home, in which many of these issues are addressed.