Singer and songwriter Peter Yarrow visited the Pittsford Barnes and Noble for the debut of his new picture book based on the famous Peter, Paul and Mary song.
Puff. He was a magic dragon that lived by the sea. We all know him and the imagination that dreamed him up.
Whether a child in age or a child in heart, hundreds of music lovers crowded the Barnes and Noble store in Pittsford Plaza on Thursday to see Peter Yarrow, one third of the musical group Peter, Paul and Mary. The trio gained fame with the popular folk song.
On hand for a performance to correspond with the release of Yarrow’s “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” a picture book inspired by the song, Yarrow delighted fans with sing-alongs and interactions. The book, which was written by Yarrow, composer Lenny Lipton and illustrator Eric Puybaret, tells the story Puff and his friend, Jackie Paper, in the land of Honalee. It follows the boy, who grows up and loses interest in the adventures of his imaginary friend.
Lipton wrote the poem on which the famous song was based, and later recorded it in 1962. Lipton has said the song is about the hardships of growing older.
“This is just the opportunity to reconnect with a time of my life that was wonderful,” said Alice Robeson, 60, of Vine Valley, Yates County.
Penfield resident Jean Simon, 65, said she came for the same reason. After listening to the folk music of Peter, Paul and Mary “forever,” she said seeing Yarrow was important because “he continues to be this gentle man who has a lot to say about social issues."
Joining local residents were more than 100 first-graders from the Walt Disney Elementary School in Gates-Chili. Filling up the second floor of the bookstore, the children sang and clapped with Yarrow as he performed “The Marvelous Toy” and “Don't Laugh At Me.”
“This is not a time for ridicule, this is a time for family and for kindness,” Yarrow said of his song about people who are different. “I am as proud of being here with you as I was singing with Peter, Paul and Mary at Carnegie Hall.”
After reading a passage from his new book, Yarrow provided the crowd what they had all been waiting for. As the children filled the store with shouts of “play the song!” Henrietta resident and balloon artist Larry Moss appeared, carrying a balloon version of Puff about that was 6 feet long.
“I love these gatherings when I’m singing,” said Yarrow, 69. “I still love this song with all my heart.”
As Yarrow lead the chorus, the store erupted in a sing-along as children, parents and grandparents sang the words and swayed back and forth, lifting their arms over their heads and flashing peace signs with their fingers. After inviting children to come up to the stage to perform with him, Yarrow asked the audience to have the youngest children come see who could sing the song at the youngest age.
“If 2-year-olds are singing it, I’m living forever,” Yarrow said.
John Gahan, 62, said he wanted to come see Yarrow perform because he’s only seen him on television.
“I grew up with him ... and I can relate to it,” said the Honeoye, Ontario County, resident. “I went through the turbulent '60s, and this brings back the good times.”
Rabbi Simeon Kolko of Brighton has been listening to the music of Peter, Paul and Mary for 40 years. He said he came to the event because Yarrow connects with kids and delivers messages of peace and hope to adults.
“It fills my heart with sweet feelings that kids in first grade know Peter Yarrow songs,” said Kolko, 50. “I thought it was incredible and awe-inspiring.”
Brighton-Pittsford Post writer Bryan Roth can be reached at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 270, or at firstname.lastname@example.org