The Origins of Blowing in the Wind

John, a rich farmer, had two sons, Peter and Paul. When he was 21 Peter, a musician, asked for his inheritance and went out into the world where over a period of time he spent his money on dissipation, music, and drink. He had a wild, carefree, and wonderful time. Eventually, the money dwindled and was nearly gone when he met Mary who was a good singer and a great tambourinist. Rather than run out of money entirely, and perhaps be forced to eat with the pigs, Peter suggested that he and Mary go visit his father and brother.

Well, John’s farm was high on a hill—hills actually, and in the nearby valleys as well—such that John spied Peter’s speeding sports car a long way off and ordered Paul and the servants to prepare a great feast. “My son is coming home; we have to celebrate!”

But Paul was irate. “Why, Father? What do we have to celebrate? My brother left us to go into the world in pursuit of fame and glory. He has tried to become a musician but all he has managed to do is to waste his money and find a wife—another great waste of money, no doubt.”

About this time Peter and Mary were at John’s house and Mary overheard the angry tirade. “You know, Paul, what you say may be true. But what if it is also true that you and I and Peter could make great music together? With my tambourine talents and the two of you on guitar and all of us singing, I think we might do great things.”

“Well, I don’t know.”

“Come on Paul, let’s give it a shot,” said Peter.

“Aw, I think you all are just blowin’ in the wind,” murmured Paul.

“Yeah, that’s it,” said Mary, “How many roads must a man walk down . . . ?”

“Before they call him lost?” asked Peter.

“A man. Before they call him a man,” emphasized, Paul. “Tell you what, guys,” he continued, “if you’ll let me write the lyrics, it might just work.”

So that night a great feast was held and in the days ahead the song “Blowing in the Wind” was finished; when it was Peter, Paul, and Mary left John behind and went out into the world where they quickly made a small fortune out of John’s large one. 

Eventually, John died destitute. Today he rests high on that mountain; Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs, and Alison Kraus sang at his funeral as Peter, Paul, and Mary played a concert that evening at Carnegie Hall.

Photo by Antoine Julien on Unsplash


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