Their contract with the Kennedy Center specified "no proselytizing," but the stars of last night's No Nukes benefit concert breached that clause with both hands, politicking without and preaching within.
The shows began, as they traditionally do, with a request for "a moment of silence to the Sky Father, the Earth Mother and all the sisters and brothers."
Tom Rush dedicated one song to MUSE (Musicians United for Safe Energy), organizers of the big No Nukes concert in Madison Square Garden last September; George Carlin said simply that "anyone smart enough to be against nuclear energy deserves entertainment." But Peter Yarrow took to the pulpit with more force:
"This is not a concert to protect the war; this is a concert to affirm the importance of human lives and human values over dollars. . . . We must eliminate the threat of nuclear war."
Outside, at the Kennedy Center doors and in the vast red lobby, anti-nuclear workers sold T-shirts, buttons and bumper stickers, and passed out flyers and petitions advertising the April 26-28 "March for a Non-Nuclear War."
It may be faith, or foolishness; but for these musical lobbyists, at least, the center of '60s liberalism has held against the encroachments of cynicism and bureaucracy. Their fliers called not only for the end of nuclear power, but for full employment and the honoring of "native American treaties." p
Whatever else, the message is not subtle. "Give me the warm power of the sun . . . But take all your atomic, poison power away," sang the reunited Peter, Paul and Mary to thunderous applause.
And it provided the perfect segue into the concert's close, Dylan's anthemic "Blowin' in the Wind," sung by the moved and enthusiastic audience.
The evening was punctuated with references to social icons of all ilks: Nixon, the Seabrook nuclear plant, the Supreme Court's "seven dirty words" decision, the Vietnam War, the late liberal crusader Allard Lowenstein.
It came to a head with an encore by all the entertainers -- an emphatic rendition of "This Land Is Your Land."
The two most popular characters of the evening, judging by the applause, were "Puff the Magic Dragon" and Carlin. It seemed a fitting "dichotomy -- a call to innocene, and a denial of the obscenity of scatology. Carlin's message -- that the body is a temple in all its aspects -- is more convincing than all the high-minded preachments.