Born in Baltimore, Maryland on December 30, 1937, Noel and his family moved to Michigan in 1950 where he played electric guitar in his high school rock ’n’ roll band (the Birds of Paradise) and hung out at an R&B record shop listening to groups like the Drifters, the Platters, the Cadillacs.
As a student at Michigan State, Noel honed his performance skills as a popular emcee and entertainer for campus events. Shortly after moving to New York City at age 21, a chance encounter at a subway stop reunited him with Betty Bannard, a young woman he had admired but never dated in high school. Betty was soon to graduate Columbia University, soon to travel to France for a graduate program and soon (three years later) to become Noel’s wife.
Noel had moved to NYC, looking for independence, but what he found were “Peter” and “Mary,” and a career that took on a life of its own, with their first album racing to the top of the charts, where it stayed for two years. He has performed in intimate coffeehouses, at the White House, and in massive stadiums. At the 1963 March on Washington when Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, Peter, Paul and Mary delivered the compelling “If I Had a Hammer” and “Blowin’ in the Wind.” It was an eventful fall. In September, Betty and Noel were married.
Noel’s sound has been shaped by huge cities, as well as the smallest hamlets of the Heartland, housing projects, coastal Maine villages, towns up and down the Mississippi, and by his search for a common language that enables everyone, no matter their origins and experiences to communicate with each other and celebrate the mystery of life.
After a profound spiritual experience in the late ’60s, Noel realized the 200-plus performance schedule of the trio left neither space in which to explore the rediscovered depths of conscience and dedication that were tugging at him nor the much overdue and deserved time with his family. In 1970 the group took a sabbatical, providing the opportunity for Noel and Betty and their three daughters Elizabeth, Kate and Anna to move from suburban New York to the coast of Maine, before reuniting almost a decade later with a markedly more reasonable schedule.
By then Noel’s solo voice was firmly established, writing and performing music that addresses social change while speaking of and to the soul, fusing jazz improvisation and insightful folk lyrics. The political, sociopolitical, spiritual, and cultural dynamics of life’s stories continue to drive his songs. Collaborating with his wife, Betty, sometimes sharing the presentation of multifaith seminars and performances, the connection between Stookey and his material, as well as his audience, is intimate, immediate, identifiable and electrifying.
Noel Paul Stookey has recorded over 50 albums, both as part of the legendary trio and as a soloist. Prior to the release of AT HOME, and his acclaimed ONE & MANY (and digital mini releases) in 2012, he had released three CDs in 2007 alone: FACETS OF THE JEWEL, “Promise of Love”, and “Song for Megumi”. In addition to his performance life, Stookey oversees Neworld Multimedia, presenting new artists and creating children’s TV shows and music. The royalties from his classic “Wedding Song” go to the Public Domain Foundation, where nearly $2 million has been put to work for charitable causes. If Stookey has his way, he hopes to make the world a better place by supporting a dialogue of acceptance and inclusion…perhaps his song “Love Rules!” says it best: “…tryin to be a student of transparency; more of Love and less of me….”