There are two kinds of political folk songs. One is political only because it
raises ethical questions, like "Where Have Ail The Flowers Gone?" The
other is topical and deals with specific issues of the day, "Buddy Can You
Spare A Dime?" is such a song. "El Salvador," written by Noel
Paul Stookey, is a combination of both.
In late 1982 Noel became concerned, after reading a firsthand report in
Sojourners Magazine, about U.S. involvement in Latin America, specifically El
Salvador, For anyone who had been involved in the anti-war movement of the
Vietnam era, it all sounded too familiar. So he wrote a song. In January, 1983
Mary Travers was invited to join a group of congressmen, public policy analysts,
former government officials, and one other performer to go to El Salvador and
try to assess the level of human rights abuses there. She came back convinced
that American military aid only intensified a desperate political situation
crying for reform.
El Salvador is a country run by fourteen families and a notoriously brutal
military, In the past five years 40,000 to 50,000 civilian deaths have been
attributed to the army and no one knows how many "Disappeared" at the
hands of the "death squads" and various other security forces.
What was true in 1983 is still true. El Salvador's problems cannot be solved
militarily nor should they be. Increased U.S. military involvement does nothing
to redress the social inequalities that have plagued that nation for decades. It
is most certainly not a democracy,
In a democracy the civilian elected government has absolute control over the
military. In a democracy elections are held on a regular basis with candidates
who hold conflicting points of view and who are able to campaign and express
those views without fear for their personal safety, In a democracy the basic
human rights of an individual are respected. None of these conditions exists in
American military aid to those in power in El Salvador effectively sanctions
the government's refusal to negotiate reforms necessary to bring peace and
democracy to that troubled country. The song "El Salvador" follows in
the folk tradition of political songs in that it is a call of concern and
Neworld Music © 1983
written by Noel Paul Stookey and Jim Wallis
Written by Peter Yarrow, "Light One Candle" was first presented as
part of the 1982 Peter, Paul and Mary
Hanukkah/ Christmas concert at Carnegie Hall with the N.Y. Choral Society.
Later, performances throughout theU.S., Europe and particularly Israel, brought
a new and universal meaning to the song.
"Light One Candle" was written, and is sung, for Jews and
non-Jews alike. The flame is an historical reminder of an ethical
imperative. It burns as a burden, demanding sacrifice and struggle. But it also
lights the possibility, the privilege and promise of a better world. We must not
let the light go out.
Silver Down Music
© 1983 written by Peter Yarrow