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 El Salvador.

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 conscience.

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