Peter, Paul and Mary: “Early Morning Rain” (Lightfoot)

One must admit at the outset that the folk group Peter, Paul and Mary was, to a degree, a synthetic creation. Producer Albert Grossman discussed with Peter Yarrow his idea for “an updated version of The Weavers for the baby-boom generation… with the crossover appeal of the Kingston Trio.” [Ed: Yecch.]

Intrigued by a photograph, Yarrow approached Mary Travers. Travers in turn suggested her friend Noel Stookey, who was doing standup comedy when singing gigs were not to be had. Be that as it may, each of them was talented; and together, they made magic.

Among the songs they picked up was one by a Canadian former singing cowboy named Gordon Lightfoot, “Early Morning Rain.”

Lightfoot is I think one of the most under-appreciated of those of the “singer-songwriter” era. He was a former boy soprano with classical training, whose competition showpiece had been Schubert’s “An Silvia.” One year, he won his category in the Canadian national singing competition.

At the time a music student in California studying orchestration, the story goes that when Lightfoot opened the envelope with his first “Early Morning Rain” royalty check in it, he decided he had had enough formal education in music. Especially theory!

Courtesy of the BBC, here we have PP&M singing Lightfoot’s ballad of a lonely music student going out to the airport to watch the jet airliners take off. (Back before Autotune, people really needed to be able to sing.)

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