NOEL PAUL STOOKEY
GUEST STARRING AS
While listening to Stookey, Dylan and other regulars one night one at The Gaslight, music critic emeritus Paul Stanton senses that new, powerful artistic and cultural forces are about to converge and collide. He knows this has happened before—but will it actually matter this time?
Noel Paul Stookey was born December 30, 1937 in Baltimore, Maryland, and although he is known as Paul in his career as a musician, he has otherwise been called Noel his entire life. Stookey began playing the guitar at age 11, and formed his first band in high school. His family moved to Birmingham, Michigan when he was 12 years old. He attended college at Michigan State University, where he continued to perform, both solo and with a group called the Corsairs. In college, Stookey discovered his talent as a master of ceremonies, and became comfortable speaking on stage.
Stookey moved to New York City in 1959, and landed a job at a company that specialized in the sale of photographic chemicals. Within a year, he moved to entertaining full-time.
In 1961, Stookey was the emcee, comedian and occasional singer at Gaslight, a club in Greenwich Village. One night, he was approached by Albert Grossman, a manager, who asked him if he was interested in joining a new folk trio. He initially said that he wasn't, but after Mary Travers and Peter Yarrow went to his apartment and the three sang together, Peter, Paul and Mary was born.
In 1969, Stookey wrote what would be his big hit, "The Wedding Song (There is Love)," as a wedding gift for his bandmate Peter Yarrow. While he never intended to release the song, Yarrow and his new wife insisted, so Stookey recorded it for his first solo album, Paul and... (1971). Stookey said that he had asked God how to make the divine present at Yarrow's wedding, and had received the melody and lyrics of "The Wedding Song" in response. Because of this, he felt that he could not claim ownership of the song, so he established the Public Domain Foundation to hold the song's copyright and receive all profits related to it. Money from the foundation is dispersed to charities.