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Peter Yarrow's colon cancer song

Posted Sep 23 2010 4:35pm



Not everyone has the guts to write an ode to colonoscopy.

 But legendary singer-songwriter Peter Yarrow, of the 1960’s folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary, is no stranger to squeamish issues. If “The Colonoscopy Song“ saves just one life, he’s certain it will be worth the potential ridicule.

 “People are uncomfortable talking about colonoscopies,” said Yarrow, 71, who wrote and recorded the song for CBS Cares  after doctors discovered a potentially cancerous polyp during his own procedure.

For the last 50 years, Yarrow has supported social and political causes ranging from the opposition to the Vietnam War to the creation of “ Operation Respect,” a conflict-resolution program for children that he recently launched in the West Bank.

But it wasn’t until he waxed poetic about the unpleasant world of colon exams to raise awareness about colon cancer that he received his own billboard along New York’s Long Island Expressway.

“I doubt anything I do will displace the kind of relationship between folk music and the American public that Peter, Paul and Mary helped foster and grow.”

Unlike Yarrow’s classic children’s song “Puff the Magic Dragon,” “The Colonoscopy Song“ is not something you want to sing to your five-year-old. Though both address the hardships of growing older, the colonoscopy song is a bit more graphic: It describes the procedure, which involves sticking a camera where the sun doesn’t shine. Yarrow also wonders: “When I had my colonoscopy, I had a question on my mind/Do we all look the same when the doctor sees us from behind?”

What you won’t find in the cheeky ballad are veiled references to medical marijuana. Yarrow sighed when we asked if he considered it.

“Nobody will ever believe me that Puff is not about drugs,” Yarrow said.

 Though he believes medical marijuana is an important issue, cancer screening is one of his highest priorities — along with justice and freedom — especially after the death of his longtime friend and bandmate Mary Travers. “Life is about extending ourselves in any way we can,” he said.

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