December 30, 2009

Although Artie Kornfeld “The Father Of Woodstock” and I have been friends since the ’60s, until recently I never asked him about the story behind some of his biggest hits as a songwriter. In 1966, he had “The Pied Piper” which made it to  number four on Billboard’s Charts, which was one the most optimistic protest songs of the era…now here’s the story behind it.

“The song, “The Pied Piper” was the result of my being an avid reader since pre-natal period.”, says songwriter / producer Artie Kornfeld (“Dead Man’s Curve, “The Rain The Park, and Other Things”).

“I remember Paul Simon telling me how he wrote the “59th St. Bridge Song (“Feelin’ Groovy)” while driving into the city. I was heading into Manhattan to write with my dear friend and co-writer Steve Duboff. I was the Director of A and R at Mercury and had a 3 hour demo session booked for a young folk rocker named Jonathan.  We were scheduled to cut 3 songs.

I made my way to the city in my “Dead Mans Curve” Corvette that Donny Kirshner gave me an advance to buy, when DMC  went top 5.  I kept a tape recorder in the car.  As I drove towards the 59th Street Bridge I thought of the Fable about a mythical Pied piper who through music, rid his Nation of the Bad Rats that had the children living in fear. There were no freedoms and no expression allowed.  The lyric and skeleton song came 1, 2, 3, so fast.

By the time I reached the office-studio Duboff had a dynamo melody on the way.  We sat, as my production session was an hour away. I turned the lyric almost anarchistic saying follow me as I promise to rid the earth of The Rats that had us going into Viet Nam.  I had the sort of vision I knew the way out.

The Pied Piper by playing his flute had the bad guys (the RATS) follow him into the Sea and freed the land. Music and the right to free expression were returned!

The only reason the song was recorded, as you Artie Wayne know, we were masters at recording.   I finished the three demos for Jonathan in two and a half hours and took out chord sheet and 3 hour old lyric, handed it to Hugh McCracken.  Then I had Artie Kaplan get his flute out and in 1 hour had cut the demo to complete record status.

At the time, I did not realize this was premonition of the role I would play seven years later creating Woodstock and really freeing the children.

Charles Koppelman and Don Rubin, professional managers at Screen-Gems Columbia music, had without my knowledge been approached by Phillips Records, and had put out the Pied Piper we cut, and called us The Changing Times.  I knew nothing about it until it hit the charts and Steve and I were booked for the 1st Sonny and Cher Tour.

I disliked the Crispian St. Peter version since it knocked us off the charts.  Recently I heard a Del Shannon version on YouTube, the song had become the motto for my political and musical agenda free the kids and bring back to this cold world the right to express yourself.

The Pipers Wail is still working it’s magic in all my projects including my book, “The Pied Piper of Woodstock”.  It tells about the life of us who are chosen to bring the music to the World. The Book could have been called “THE PIED PIPER”, without Woodstock in the title since the message has always been in the song. Free the children to create music.

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge my late Dear Friend and writing Partner, Steven Duboff. The two of us, based on a bond of love and pure fun, writing together and even touring for 20 cities doing the original version as The Changing Times.  We stayed great pals until his death in the late 90s..We had an incredible over 60 songs released as a team.

I often wish my buddy Steve was here today as I miss him and the way we collaborated very much.”

Artie Kornfeld

Photo at top…L to R Steve Duboff, Artie Kornfeld, Sonny and Cher

To reach Artie Kornfeld

Copyright 2009 by Artie Wayne



  1. S.J. Dibai Says:

    Damn, and I always just thought it was a fun song about breaking out of your shell and having a good time! I’ve been familiar with all three of these versions for a few years now and I’m sorry, but I rate Crispian’s version higher than the original. I love the song, but I didn’t think it was best done in a Dylan style. Crispian was not a great singer, but he brought a certain frivolity out of the song which might not have been true to Steve and Artie’s vision, but it played up the inherent fun of the lyrics.

  2. Scott Says:

    Here’s another vote for Crispian St. Peters’ studio version. The bassline is what seals the deal — it sets up the chorus beautifully.

    I think the Del Shannon version had potential, but he sings it in a key that’s too low for his voice. The Ventures also did a version (with vocals, too).

  3. CGHill Says:

    Oh, I don’t know. The lyrics are Dylanesque enough – play it back to back with “Mr. Tambourine Man” and it seems obvious – and the song might have gotten a bit more antiwar traction had a folkier version taken hold.

    I’d missed the Del Shannon cover, and I’d agree with Scott: it’s pitched just a tad too low. It’s not like Del couldn’t handle the higher notes in the chorus, either.

  4. geralyn biancarelli Says:

    Artie, I have the book The Pied Piper of woodstock and again I thank you for freeing the children in 1969.. Your talent on many levels is greatly respected..I’m the pied piper follow me” how true..Don’t stop now It’s time for more songs/music,more books and many more woodstocks thanks again geralyn

  5. cindy Says:

    Crispian and Rita Marley recorded this same song in the same year. I know the record she has shows a copyright, just wondering if how and why they would both release the same song the same year? Seems odd and I know back then there was alot of misuse of peoples work. Figured somebody here would be able to explain this.

  6. Jack Z Says:

    Dear Folks,
    I believe that Artie and Steve jointly composed one of the best pop/flower-power songs of all time — “The Rain, The Park, and Other Things.” Even now, many years later, it stands up. It was/is a beautiful — and optimistic —ray of wonderful sunshine; and, in my opinion, vastly underrated! So, thank you Steve and Artie for this great, enduring contribution to pop music.

    All the best,

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