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Puff The Magic Dragon

As told by Tom Simon (tsimon@crl.com)

   Lenny Lipton grew up in Brooklyn. In 1958 he graduated from high school and headed off to college at Cornell in Ithaca, New York. Lenny came to the realization that he was not a little kid anymore and never would be; that made him sad.
   One night in the Spring of 1959 Lenny headed for the Cornell library. He had just turned nineteen. He found a book of poems by Ogden Nash, one of which discussed a Really-o Truly-o Dragon. After he was finished he left the library, walked down the hill from Cornell into the town of Ithaca, and went to visit his friend Lenny Edelstein. The two friends were supposed to have dinner together that night.
   No one was at home, but the door was unlocked so Lenny Lipton let himself in; this was not an uncommon practice in Ithaca in the late 50's. Lenny was thinking again about the loss of his carefree childhood days, and he was inspired by the poems he had been reading earlier in the evening. He sat down at the typewriter of Edelstein's roommate, Peter, and decided to write a poem of his own. He wrote for about three minutes and felt somewhat soothed. He left the poem in Peter's typewriter, and then left.
   Peter returned and saw the sheet of paper in the typewriter. He was a singer/performer/concert organizer around Ithaca, in addition to being an undergraduate and doing some teaching. He liked what he saw and put some music to it, and later began to use it in some of his performances.
   Peter later joined a group and used the song. It became more and more popular, and eventually the group recorded it. Within a few years it had become a top ten pop song. Peter went back and tracked down Lenny Lipton, who was by that time a counselor at a summer camp. Peter added Lenny Lipton's name as a co-writer, and Lipton has done well with the royalties he has received ever since.
   Peter was Peter Yarrow, and his group was Peter, Paul and Mary. The song, which reached number 2 on the charts early in 1963, was "Puff The Magic Dragon." According to Lenny Lipton, it is a simple, sentimental song about the loss of childhood and nothing more.
 


   But Bucky says it's a sad song that doesn't tell the whole story. So he wrote some words that fix it up.


2000 Bucky Edgett