TRIBUTE TO MARY TRAVERS OF PETER, PAUL & MARY
Mary Allin Travers (November 9, 1936 – September 16, 2009) was an American singer-songwriter and member of the folk music group Peter, Paul and Mary, along with Peter Yarrow and Noel (Paul) Stookey. Peter, Paul and Mary was one of the most successful folk-singing groups of the 1960s. Unlike most folk musicians who were a part of the early 1960s Greenwich Village music scene, Travers actually grew up in that New York City neighborhood.
While in high school, Travers joined the Song Swappers, which sang backup for Pete Seeger when Folkways Records reissued a union song collection, http://Talking Union, in 1955. The Song Swappers recorded four albums for Folkways in 1955, all with Seeger. Travers regarded her singing as a hobby and was shy about it, but was encouraged by fellow musicians. She also was in the cast of the Broadway show The Next President.
The group Peter, Paul and Mary was formed in 1961, and was an immediate success. They shared a manager, Albert Grossman, with Bob Dylan. Their success with Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" helped propel Dylan's Freewheelin' album into the Top 30 four months after its release.
An Associated press obituary noted:
The group's first album, Peter, Paul and Mary came out in 1962 and immediately scored hits with their versions of "If I Had a Hammer" and "Lemon Tree". The former won them Grammys for best folk recording and best performance by a vocal group.
Their next album, Moving, included the hit tale of innocence lost, "Puff, The Magic Dragon", which reached No. 2 on the charts.
The trio's third album, In the Wind, featured three songs by the 22-year-old Bob Dylan. "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" and "Blowin' in the Wind" reached the top 10, bringing Dylan's material to a massive audience; the latter shipped 300,000 copies during one two-week period.
...at one point in 1963, three of their albums were in the top six Billboard best-selling LPs as they became the biggest stars of the folk revival movement.
Their version of "If I Had a Hammer" became an anthem for racial equality, as did Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind", which they performed at the August 1963 March on Washington.
The group broke up in 1970, and Travers subsequently pursued a solo career and recorded five albums: Mary (1971), Morning Glory (1972), All My Choices (1973), Circles (1974) and It's in Everyone of Us (1978). The group re-formed in 1978, toured extensively and issued many new albums. The group was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999.
In 2005, Travers was diagnosed with leukemia. Although a bone marrow transplant apparently slowed the progression of the disease, Travers died on September 16, 2009, at Danbury Hospital in Danbury, Connecticut, from complications arising from chemotherapy. She was 72 years old.
All of us are subject to being passive to the social ills around us. It's a struggle not to become, by staying silent, an accomplice. Mary Travers.
No American folk group has lasted longer or amassed a more loyal following than Peter, Paul and Mary; indeed, few groups of any genre have logged more years (45) or miles (countless) in direct, yearly touring; spreading the message and engaging the next (now four) generations. During its now legendary career, the trio won five Grammy's, produced 13 Top 40 hits, of which 6 ascended into the Top 10 - as well as eight gold and five platinum albums. That PP&M achieved such a rarefied level of commercial success without compromise, and while continuing a centuries-old tradition of people raising their voices in song for the sake of freedom, is simply further evidence of their extraordinarily successful career-as much a mission accomplished as a musical career.
I was raised on Josh White, the Weavers and Pete Seeger. The music was everywhere. You'd go to a party at somebody's apartment and there would be fifty people there, singing well into the night.
If we are going to teach the world to stop hating the different, the other, then we're going to have to start with children.
In our concerts, the audience feels a sense of community and continuity. Because folk music is non-ageist, it tends to bind families together. It's lovely to look out at the audience and see a parent hug their little boy or little girl during a song from their college years, and to see that the child knows the words. That sense of sharing feeds back to the artist, and it's one of the joys of having a long career. It's also why the music doesn't get old.
Peter, Paul and Mary was formed in 1961 and had a series of major folk hits including "Blowin' in the Wind", "If I Had a Hammer", and "Puff, the Magic Dragon". Grossman felt it would add to Mary's mysterious allure if she didn't speak on stage, so quotes are hard to find. The group broke up in 1970, with all three recording individually, but regrouped in 1978 and toured extensively until Travers was diagnosed with leukemia in September of 2004. She died from complications related to chemotherapy.
Folk music has a sort of a bubbling-under quality. The stream runs through the cultural consciousness, and whether or not it's on the radio is not the issue. Folk music is always there.
Singing 'Blowin' in the Wind' all the places we've been, it takes on a different meaning everywhere. When you sing the line, 'How many years can a people exist, before they're allowed to be free?' in a prison yard for political prisoners in El Salvador; if you have sung it to a group of union organizers, who have all been in jail, in South Korea; if you've sung to Jews in the Soviet Union who have been refused exit visas; if you've sung it with Bishop Tutu protesting apartheid, the song breathes, it lives, it has a contemporary currency.
The fact that there are singer-songwriters dealing with substantive issues is encouraging. It's important for young people to perceive that there are acceptable avenues of dissent, because we live in a world where dissent is hard-pressed; treated as if it were unpatriotic. I've always liked the concept of the loyal opposition. It allows for dissent to be a respectable part of the whole.
It was like a miracle. I'm just feeling fabulous. What's incredible is someone has given your life back. I'm out in the garden today. This time last year I was looking out a window at a hospital.
“Peter, Paul and Mary are folk singers.” So stated the liner notes to the group’s self-titled 1962 debut album. Today, this declaration seems redundant, because the term “folk music” has come to be virtually interchangeable with the group name, but when the words were written, they were meant less as a stylistic distinction than as a mission statement.