Noel Paul Stookey (born December 30, 1937) is an American singer-songwriter, known as Paul in the folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary. He took the stage name "Paul" as part of the trio Peter, Paul and Mary, but he has been known as Noel (his first name) otherwise, throughout his life. Since the death of Mary Travers, he has continued to work as a solo singer and activist.
Stookey was born in Baltimore, Maryland. His family moved to Birmingham, Michigan when he was about 12. Stookey graduated from Birmingham High School (now Seaholm High School) in 1955.
Stookey is an alumnus of Michigan State University (MSU) in East Lansing, Michigan. While attending MSU, he joined Delta Upsilon fraternity. Though he credits a deep spiritual core for his work, Stookey "dispelled reports that he was born a Buddhist, saying his mother was a Roman Catholic and his dad was an ex-Mormon" and recalling the family's "eclectic attendance at church. I had no real spiritual sense until I was 30.'"
As Paul in the Peter, Paul and Mary trio, he participated in one of the best known mass media ensembles of the 1960s phase of the American folk music revival, and included some of his solo songs and extended monologues in their performances and recordings.
In addition to his recordings with the trio, he released a number of solo works, several albums with the ensemble Bodyworks, and some anthologies. He was an important artist in the young Jesus music movement, which would later bloom into the Christian music industry, although his generally liberal political views distinguish him from many such artists.
In 1986, Stookey teamed up with Jim Newton, Paul G. Hill and Denny Bouchard at Celebration Shop in Texas. The company, now known as Hugworks, uses original musical compositions as music therapy to address the special needs of children. The company has produced three award-winning children's CDs used in hospitals, medical camps and homes across the country.
After Peter, Paul and Mary:
Paul performed as a member of Peter, Paul and Mary until the death of Mary in September 2009. His work after Peter, Paul and Mary has emphasized his Christian faith, family life and social concerns. He remains active in the music industry, performing as a solo act.
In January 2011, Stookey participated in several events at Dartmouth College that celebrated the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., including "Music for Social Change with Noel Paul Stookey and Company."
His best-known composition is "The Wedding Song (There is Love)", which charted in 1971 and remains popular for performance during wedding services. He wrote the song as a wedding gift for Peter Yarrow, and refused to perform it for the public until Yarrow requested it at a concert where his wife was present. Stookey assigned the copyright to this song to the Public Domain Foundation.
He also has production credits on albums by several lesser-known singer-songwriters, including Dave Mallett and Gordon Bok. He was the founder of the Neworld Multimedia record label.
Stookey married Elizabeth "Betty" Bannard in 1963; they have three daughters. After raising their family in Blue Hill, Maine, the couple lived for several years in Massachusetts while Betty served as the Northfield Mount Hermon School chaplain. In 2005 they returned to Maine. Stookey records in his private studio--a converted chicken coop--on his Maine property.
Charting Single - Billboard (North America)
July 31, 1971
"The Wedding Song (There Is Love)"
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