Noel Paul Stookey was sitting in his Blue Hill home a few weeks ago, talking about President Trump with his wife and a friend, when he was reminded of an old Nat King Cole tune.
Stookey – who gained fame in the 1960s singing songs about social justice with the trio Peter, Paul and Mary – said they were talking about the “egregious overreaching” by Trump and his top officials in just their first few days in office. Could Trump be impeached, Stookey wondered? First he’d have to be found to have committed offenses that would make him impeachable, Stookey mused. This prompted Stookey’s friend Becky McCall to blurt, “Impeachable, that’s what he is.”
But of course Stookey, music lover that he is, heard Cole’s deep, smokey voice crooning, “Unforgettable, that’s what you are.” And a political parody song perfect for YouTube was born: “Impeachable.”
Stookey, 79, recorded a video of himself singing “Impeachable” in a garage in Ojai, California, where he and his wife spend time each winter with family. It was posted to YouTube on Tuesday and had more than 16,000 views by Wednesday night. But it was tweeted Wednesday by another well-known creative type from Maine, writer Stephen King, so who knows how many folks might see it?
Besides the word having a musical quality to it, why does Stookey think Trump is impeachable?
“The fact that Trump’s campaign members, (former national security adviser Michael) Flynn and other Cabinet members are conceivably in violation of ‘consorting’ with Russia is probably the most prominent” reason, Stookey wrote in an email from California on Wednesday. “But of course, the irresponsible attempt to ban immigration on the basis of religion and the conflicts of interest that naturally accrue by virtue of the lack of financial accountability, divestiture of personal wealth, holdings in foreign companies, etc., also play into the mix.”
Stookey, who has lived in Blue Hill since 1974, is no stranger to protests, activism and mass movements of resistance. Peter, Paul and Mary performed at the 1963 March on Washington, D.C., where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his historic “I Have a Dream” speech. Many of their best-known songs had messages of equality and social justice, including “If I Had a Hammer” and “Where Have All The Flowers Gone.”
In his Trump parody video, Stookey sits alone with an acoustic guitar, his voice clear and strong. The tune is played soft and slow, with heart-felt passion, especially on the refrain “Impeachable, that’s what you are.” Most of the lyrics are fairly gentle, considering Stookey would like Trump fired:
“And yet so far you’ve avoided closer scrutiny, even though Vladimir Putin he opened many doors, it only makes you more … impeachable.”
Even Stookey’s take on what the aftermath of a Trump impeachment would be like feels pretty mild.
“You may have thought you were unreachable, but history makes some moments teachable; Someday (Vice President Mike) Pence may be impeachable, too.”
Stookey believes humor in songs of “social concern” can be powerful. As a vehicle of protest, music should at times be confrontational, Stookey said. But he pointed out that the “anti-fascist” songs of Woody Guthrie in the 1930s and ’40s are “mixed with lament for the deported farm worker” and “humor, lots of humor.”
Stookey continues to tour, doing maybe a dozen shows a year solo and a dozen with Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul and Mary. (Mary Travers died in 2009.) Stookey and his wife also put on a series of programs called “One Light, Many Candles,” which are “multi-faith programs” of song and speech.
So far Stookey said the reaction to his parody has included “a couple of angry responses, to be expected following such an intensely partisan election.”
“But overall, most folks (are) thanking me for articulating musically what they’re feeling personally,” he said in his email.