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February 6-12, 2011

This week we focus on two songs that came to my attention courtesy of members of Peter, Paul and Mary, both of which beautifully speak to the inner child.

Live in Concert: Peter, Paul & Mary
In March 2007, I got to see Peter, Paul and Mary at a small venue. Fittingly for this week’s inner child theme, that show was presented by MetroParent, which touted itself on the program as “Your Parent Coach,” and sponsored by the Children’s Trust Fund, which aims to help prevent child abuse. This was nearly two years after Mary Travers had received a bone marrow transplant to treat her leukemia and, at that time, she was still performing relatively well.

Light One Candle: Peter Yarrow & Noel Paul Stookey in a Benefit Concert
Then, last September, I got to see Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey play live again. But this time Mary wasn’t there. Sadly, she had passed away about a year earlier. But the bone marrow transplant she received had given her a few more years of life and performing. And it came from a local woman who eventually revealed herself to Mary, allowing them to meet each other before Mary’s death.

And so Peter and Paul had come into town to perform a benefit concert for Be the Match, which encourages the donation of bone marrow and umbilical cord blood and runs a registry to help match donors with those in need. Peter and Paul put on a great show and we got to meet them briefly afterwards at a reception.

Two songs that they played that night have been stuck in my head since that show.

I believe that, of all the songs Peter and Paul played that night, these two stuck with me for the same reason. They both poignantly demonstrate, in somewhat complementary ways, how the inner child continues to speak to us throughout life. Both start from the perspective of the child and then move through time in different ways to show how our childhood feelings and experiences never really die.

Both are fantastic examples of one of the quotes that I feature at the top of my own page on inner child healing:
"Childhood lasts all through life. It returns to animate broad sections of adult life. Poets will help us find this living childhood within us, this permanent, durable, immobile world." - Gaston Bachelard

"It's Magic"

It's Magic - In These Times (Remastered)

The first song that still haunts me from that show is “It’s Magic”. This song was featured on In These Times, which Wikipedia says was Peter, Paul and Mary’s last studio album. The song was written by Tim Bays and Dave Allen.

“It’s Magic” deals with the childhood experiences of wonder, awe and mystery and reveals how, even as we progress through life and become more critical thinkers who understand intellectually that magic isn’t real in the way we once believed, many of us never lose the desire to still feel that sense of wonder. We continue to seek and find it throughout the circle of life, in the joys and thrills of attraction, love and new life and the sadness and longings stirred up by death.

I didn’t find an easily available video version of this song performed by Peter, Paul and Mary or by just Peter and Paul. But I did find this version of it performed by Peter Yarrow himself. In a way, it is an even more appropriate version for this discussion since Peter is playing the song live for a group of children.

Even more fittingly, he takes time during the actual song to tell parents to simply let the children enjoy the song and make noise if they want to and that he will just incorporate it into the song. He tells the parents “It’s a safe place for them.” This is a poetic demonstration of the point of the song itself, which is that there remains a place for the inner child’s sense of wonder throughout life.

Ever the idealist, Peter ends the song with some timely lessons for the children about the traits and influences that build character and provide meaning to our lives and the contrast between lifeless technology and the depth of human experience.

"The Kid"

The Kid - Lifelines

But the song that really stuck with me most deeply from that night is “The Kid”. This is a song written by Buddy Mondlock. Peter, Paul and Mary covered it on their 1995 album Lifelines. It was also featured on the eponymous (and only) album released by Cry, Cry, Cry, a collaboration formed by folk artists Richard Shindell, Lucy Kaplansky, and Dar Williams.

Like “It’s Magic”, “The Kid” hits home by capturing the intricate interweaving of childhood dreams with the rest of our lives. Even the lyrical phrasing “I’m the kid,” rather than “I was the kid,” pounds home the ever-present nature and impact of the inner child throughout life. The song also beautifully captures the romantic nature of the world of daydreams, fantasies and memories that many of us learned to rely on as children to escape from painful daily realities. And it touches on how, as we grow up, those escapes often tend be subsumed into our intimate longings and generate memories of unrequited loves that haunt us.

“The Kid” serves nicely as a sort of inner child yin to the inner child yang of “It’s Magic”.

While “It’s Magic” does have its dark, somber elements, it seems overall to focus on the beautiful and hopeful side of life’s mysteries. Instead of dwelling on the sadness of loss, it immediately reminds us that loss often flows into new beginnings. “The Kid,” on the other hand, contains subtle elements of joy, but remains mostly focused on the vulnerability and tender pain of the inner child’s yearnings. Indeed, as explained in the video below, Cry Cry Cry so named their band, and the album on which the song appears, because every song they performed was sad.

I also didn’t find an easily available video version of this song done by members of Peter, Paul and Mary. And I don’t find the actual album version of the song by Cry, Cry, Cry as powerful as the stripped down version that Peter and Paul did at the benefit concert. But I do rather like this version done solo by Lucy Kaplansky live.

I’ve mentioned before that the most powerful quality in music of any kind for me is when it is haunting. Not only are both of these songs haunting, but they are even more so because they sneak up on you. They seem quite simple and unassuming, but, before you realize it, they’ve powerfully awakened the inner child and swept you up in wonder, mystery, reminiscence and longing – some of the deepest and most powerful human experiences of all.

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