Noel Paul Stookey, better known as the “Paul” of the seminal 1960s folk trio Peter, Paul & Mary, continues to embrace his role as an elder statesman of what was once referred to as “protest music.” On March 22, Neworld Multimedia will release JUST CAUSES, a carefully curated compilation of 15 Stookey tracks, each bearing a theme of social concern. Freshly remixed and remastered by John Stuart, Stookey has paired each song in the collection with an appropriate designated non-profit organization to benefit from the album’s net proceeds.
Stookey, who has enjoyed a career that includes over 50 albums, both as part of the legendary trio and as a solo artist, continues his commitment to creating socially relevant music and to giving back. “Every songwriter eventually realizes that his art is meant for service: to entertain, inform and in a best-case scenario, to inspire,” he explains. “As I look over the fifty plus years that I've attempted to capture 'lightening in a bottle' – a moment realized in a song that transcends time – I recognize that some musical creations seem to have a longer life because they address issues that still challenge us, no matter the generation."
The concept for JUST CAUSES took shape quickly. “I was literally picking up groceries at our local store when I noticed for the umpteenth time that Paul Newman's brand of products from his Newman’s Own company advertise on the packaging that '100% of profits go to charity,'” he explains. “I thought what a great concept and what the term 'profits' means in my life. I've been very fortunate in my musical pursuits, and the idea of 'giving back' at this point in my life and career struck a chord with me.”
JUST CAUSES addresses many of the issues that continue to plague our world, among them hunger, reproductive rights, immigration, missing children, safe energy, drug addiction and the environment. The title, Stookey explains, “indicates that the album contains not only those songs that share a commonality of mutual concern and intent, but also that those concerns are well-founded in a search for justice.”
He couples his song “The Connection,” which describes the link between terrorist funding and drug trafficking, with the Partnership to End Addiction. “Danny’s Downs” tells the moving story of a family discovering the blessing that comes with the welcoming of a Down Syndrome child into their lives, and the National Down Syndrome Congress has been paired with it. He includes his poignant “Jean Claude,” a Holocaust tale told from the standpoint of a survivor’s haunting memory, and has chosen the Dallas Holocaust & Human Rights Museum as its designated charity.
His rollicking “Revolution (1x1),” which has been serviced to folk radio deejays as a focus track, is a new kind of protest song: Written six years after the horror of 9/11, “it may seem naive to have assumed that global peace and understanding could flow from something as commonplace as a friendly greeting to a stranger,” he explains. “I believe that making the world a better place for all peoples calls for an investment of personal kindness.” As the song suggests:
I'm gonna start a revolution; I'm gonna take it to the street,
I'm gonna smile at every solitary person that I meet!
I'm gonna wave at total strangers no matter where they're from.
I'm gonna start a revolution… gonna win it one by one.
Check it out here:
The designated charity for “Revolution (1x1)” is Sojourners, the faith-based organization that promotes the integration of spiritual renewal and social justice.
Stookey’s powerful rendition of “America the Beautiful,” complete with two original verses he wrote, is paired with People for The American Way, the progressive advocacy organization founded by television producer Norman Lear to encourage civic participation and defend fundamental rights. He has also paired the song “Not That Kind of Music” with the non-profit initiative Music to Life, which he founded in 2001 with his daughter Liz Stookey Sunde to fund the work of other socially responsible artists through technology, entertainment, artist collaboration and education. The organization recently released its own compilation CD of 15 artists whose work they support called Hope Rises.
Stookey grew up in the Midwest, where he played electric guitar in his high school rock ’n’ roll band, and he moved to New York City at the age of 20 in search of independence. What he found was a burgeoning folk music scene and the “Peter” and “Mary” who would become his partners in the adventure of a lifetime. Via signature vocal harmonies and socially conscious songs like “If I Had a Hammer,” the anti-war “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” and “Blowin' in the Wind,” which gave early national exposure to then fledgling songwriter Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul & Mary’s music penetrated every corner of the country. Their first album reached the top of the charts and stayed there for two years. They sang at the White House as well as intimate coffeehouses and large stadiums. When Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech at the 1963 March on Washington, it was Peter, Paul and Mary who sang.
In 1970, after years of playing 200-plus shows annually, the group took a much-needed sabbatical, providing Noel and his family a chance to relocate to the idyllic coast of Maine. While the group reunited a decade later, Noel used the hiatus and the reduced touring schedule to hone his solo canon, beginning with the release of his PAUL AND album, the first of some 20 solo album projects. His “Wedding Song (There Is Love)” from PAUL AND was a major chart hit and became a staple for—what else—weddings.
JUST CAUSES is Stookey’s latest album, his first since 2018, and perhaps the most concise attempt to curate music that speaks to making the world a better place. His focus as a songwriter has been to further his role as an activist and create music of conscience and concern. JUST CAUSES serves as a succinct showcase for his convictions.
In addition to creating music projects of his own, Stookey oversees Neworld Multimedia, presenting new artists and creating children’s TV shows and music. The royalties from “Wedding Song” go to the Public Domain Foundation, where nearly $2 million has already been put to work for charitable causes. He hopes that JUST CAUSES will continue in this tradition.
Tracks and Designated Charities
"In These Times"—The Nature Conservancy, a global environmental organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends: nature.org
"Danny’s Downs"---National Down Syndrome Congress, promotes the interests of people with Down syndrome and their families through advocacy, public awareness, and information: ndsccenter.org
"Jean Claude" --Dallas Holocaust & Human Rights Museum, dedicated to teaching the history of the Holocaust and advancing human rights to combat prejudice, hatred and indifference: dhhrm.org
"Tom Quick"--First Nations Development Institute, improves economic conditions for Native Americans through direct financial grants, technical assistance & training, and advocacy & policy: firstnations.org
“Not That Kind of Music”--Music To Life, builds on the strong historical legacy of social movements’ intentional use of music to educate, recruit, and mobilize: musictolife.org
“Juice”— Massachusetts Interfaith Light & Power, faith-based organization working to combat climate change: massipl.org
"Familia Del Corazon"--Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project, Maine’s only state-wide immigration legal services organization providing advances justice and equity for immigrants and their families: ilapmaine.org
"America The Beautiful"--People For the American Way, a progressive advocacy organization founded to fight right-wing extremism and build a democratic society that implements the ideals of freedom, equality, opportunity and justice for all: pfaw.org
"The Winner"--Southern Poverty Law Center, monitors the activities of domestic hate groups and other extremists throughout the United States to expose their activities to the public, the media and law enforcement: splcenter.org
"Nukes R Nuts"--Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, pursues denuclearizing actions with the intention of achieving a world free of nuclear weapons: wagingpeace.org
"All My Life"--Religious Coalition For Reproductive Choice, interfaith movement to protect and advance reproductive health, choice, rights and justice through education and advocacy: rcrc.org
"El Salvador"---Oxfam America, a global organization working to end the injustice of poverty: oxfamamerica.org
"The Connection"--Partnership To End Addiction, provides personalized support and resources for families impacted by addiction, while mobilizing policymakers, researchers and health care professionals to more effectively address addiction nationally: drugfree.org
"Song For Megumi"---National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, helps find missing children, reduce child sexual exploitation and prevent child victimization: missingkids.org
"Revolution (1x1)"---Sojourners, faith-based organization that promotes the integration of spiritual renewal and social justice: sojo.net