Her Light Will Linger On
by Peter Yarrow
Founding member of Peter, Paul, and Mary
So many of us have followed the work and life of Debbie Friedman, and been enriched by her remarkable artistry and her tireless efforts to inspire and be a source of healing amongst us. Now that she is gone, I find myself sharing many thoughts and feelings that recall the time following the passing of Mary Travers — occasioning a huge change in my life, of course, with a mourning process, ongoing. Also, I am thinking of the passing of Odetta, who is many ways was a great role model for me when I was quite young, whose magnificent voice and heart are now stilled. I am thinking of Dave Van Ronk’s passing, another titanic heart and talent, a hugely beloved member of our folk-singing, community-creating, family circle.
There are others, alas, for me perhaps, earliest and most dear, Josh White, who played such an important role in my early awareness of the magic of folk music.
What impresses me the most, at this moment, is how wonderfully we, as a group of singers and artists that are part of the folk tradition, have supported, and continue to support each other. We have not been enmeshed in jealousy battles, financial law suits or public displays of mean-spiritedness, all too common in the world of “show business” today, where the ticket to sustaining a career is so frequently enmeshed in the seamy side of public awareness.
“Why are we like this?” I ask myself. I believe that, as Mary Travers said many times, it is because the music, itself, says to us, “If you want to sing me, you have to live me.” Yes, I believe it is the music that makes this happen; music colored, changed and patina-ed by us when we add our own brief touch. This is the persuasive, common, element we share. We are not a line of artists that encourages the worship of our musical icons. Indeed not! We honor, love, respect and forgive one another for our inevitable pettiness and failures, just as a loving family does for one another.
We are fortunate indeed.
I remember well when Rabbi Elliott Kleinman first introduced me to Debbie, and there are many more fun, funny, and touching memories of the two of us singing together, recalled, now as I write.
A great talent, a great source of inspiration, and a great loss. As with Mary Travers, another great woman of singular conviction and creative passion, Debbie’s gift will continue to inspire us and others for untold generations. Hers was a pure and remarkable life’s journey, a life well lived and a courageous spirit well loved by all of us, we who were touched by her and her music.
So, on this day to think about Debbie Friedman, truly “one of us”, truly one who sang, and lived, the legacy of music that inspired her, as it did all of us, let me be one of many to express my great gratitude for all Debbie gave to us, to the world of those who seek kindness, healing, and loving respect for one another.
She was, as has been Noel and my beloved Mary Travers, an exceptional light in the world, one that will linger to brighten and heal our souls, for many, many generations to come, and perhaps longer.
With great love and respect,
Peter, Paul & Mary