This week I was invited to Peter Yarrow’s apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan for a party on behalf of World Hunger Year. Peter, of Peter, Paul and Mary, and Tom Chapin, brother of Harry Chapin, were both incredibly gracious hosts. Though I had only recently gotten to know both of them personally, as we talked, I realized how important both of these men have been my in life for many, many years.
Of course, we all grew up with the music of Peter, Paul and Mary. To hear Peter’s many stories, though, I felt as if I knew them personally through the years. He’s a remarkably friendly and personable man who wears his politics on his sleeve and doesn’t care what anyone thinks about it. I really like that trait in the man.
I first saw Tom Chapin on stage with his brother, Harry. I later shot video with Harry and his young family on a Florida beach. Harry would always end his concerts with All My Life’s a Circle, one of my favorite of his songs. When Harry died in a car crash in 1981, I was distraught for days.
Tom told us how Harry had actually written that song for him when he was doing a children’s television show in the early 70s. It became an unexpected hit for Harry. I suspect that’s because it has affected so many people over the years as a work containing so much truth.
When Tom sang “Circle” in Peter Yarrow’s living room, it affected me in a profound way. Somehow, I felt the circle had closed a bit for me at that moment. It made me realize how my life has so many incredible connections that have kept building and interweaving through the years. “Seems like I've been here before, and I well remember when…”When Tom introduced Jorma Kaukonen, he noted that the last time he’d seen him was with Harry at the Fillmore in San Francisco when Jorma was guitarist for Jefferson Airplane. It was exactly the same way I was introduced to Tom—on stage. Harry and Tom had both been fans of Jorma.
Tom also sang a song inspired by the Rev. Gary Davis, a man who taught both he and Harry how to play the guitar. The Rev. Davis played on the streets of my own hometown, having been born only 40 miles away in Laurens, South Carolina. He’s still unknown in South Carolina—but certainly not to some of the world’s greatest musicians, including Bob Dylan.The Yarrow party was remarkable for me on many levels. The song says it all:
All my life's a circle, sunrise and sundown
Moon rolls through the night-time till the daybreak comes around
All my life's a circle I can't tell you why
Seasons spinning round again, the years keep rolling by
Seems like I've been here before, and I well remember when
I've got a funny feeling that we'll all be together again
No straight lines make up my life, all my roads are bends
There's no clear-cut beginning and so far no dead ends
I've found you a thousand times, I know you've done the same
Then we lose each other, it's like a children's game
If I find you here again the thought comes through my mind
Life is like a circle, let's go round one more time