Thursday, September 17, 2009

Mary Travers RIP

I am sad to hear that Mary Travers has died after a long bout of Leukemia. In the early 60's the folk group Peter Paul and Mary sang against war and inequality. They followed in the footsteps of Pete Seeger and sang protest songs penned by Bob Dylan. They briefly became the voice of a new active generation, and bridged the hip swiveling era of Elvis rock to the British invasion and Beatlemania.

"If I had a Hammer" spoke of the bell of freedom and the hammer of justice. "Blowing in the Wind" asked, "how many times must the cannonballs fly before they're forever banned," and "how many years must some people live before they're allowed to be free." Travers' beautiful voice blended smoothly with those of Peter Yarrow and Noel "Paul" Stookey and was complemented by their folk guitars. "Puff the Magic Dragon" became an international hit, in part because it was rumored to have been about marijuana which was becoming widely popular in the early sixties. And "Lemon Tree" was very pretty indeed.

I went out on my first official date to a Peter Paul and Mary concert in Chicago in 1963. I was able to secure pretty good seats, especially for a high school junior, because they were my date's favorite group. Even more, like Mary Travers, my date had long straight blond hair, played the guitar and bobbed her head to stress certain words as she sang. But she was no Mary Travers. Yet she seemed truly impressed with me that night. Alas, nothing came of the relationship except a truly magnificent memory.

Mary Travers will always have very special meaning in my life. My most vivid memory will be her appearance fifty years ago on that Chicago stage. I can still clearly hear her voice plaintively yet powerfully above Peter and Paul's invoking a call to action, "It's the hammer of justice, the bell of freedom, it's the song about love between my brothers and my sisters, all over this land."

Mary Travers RIP

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