Mary Travers: 1936 – 2009
Singer Mary Travers died yesterday after a five year battle with leukaemia. She became famous in 1961 as 1/3 of the folk trio, Peter, Paul and Mary (along with Peter Yarrow and Noel “Paul” Stookey). They went on to become one of the preeminent groups of the 1960s. Their first hits, “If I Had a Hammer” and “Lemon Tree”, perfectly showcase what made their sound so unique: the luscious harmonies, the raw emotion and gentle rhythm. Among their best remembered songs are “Puff, the Magic Dragon”, “I Dig ‘N Roll”, and “Blowin’ in the Wind”, a famous cover of Bob Dylan‘s classic.
Seeing as Peter, Paul and Mary came to prominence in the era of peace and love and political turmoil, they were very much activists themselves, singing songs of protest against Vietnam. Travers never stopped being politically active, participating in such events as a march in Washington for women’s rights and a demonstration against apartheid in South Africa.
Up until her death, Travers enjoyed touring the country with Yarrow and Stookey, often filling out arenas with an unbelievable amount of baby boomers who are forever touched by their music and especially by her powerful voice.
When asked about her group’s commerciality, Travers replied,
I think there are many qualities that allow a song to transcend its own time, whether it’s a love song, a lullaby, or a song of protest. They all have to have a certain elegance to them, and simplicity and authenticity. They can’t sound as if they were only appealing to a narrow group of people… The thing about really great songs is that they’re everybody’s music.”