Thursday, September 17, 2009


Mary Travers has died. She was the main voice and centerpiece of Peter Paul and Mary. She mainstreamed the folk music revival of the ‘60s and the emotion that went with it.

Straight from Greenwich Village coffeehouses, she and the group brought folk music to teenagers all over the nation. Along with Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey, they sang beautiful three-part harmony that sold records while nurturing the civil rights and anti-war movements of the ‘60s.

I vividly remember spending a camping vacation one summer in high school with my girl cousins. While the adults played “42”, we sat around the fire and sang “Lemon Tree”, “If I Had a Hammer”, “Where Have All The Flowers Gone”, and others.

No offense to John Denver, but Mary Travers puts all the emotion in “Leaving on a Jet Plane” that makes you feel the pain of the singer and believe she really hates to leave you. I hate that she left us, too.

One of the problems of growing older is that the people you looked up to as a young person die off. I’m 57 and it happens every week.

I learned to play the guitar to folk music. Peter Paul and Mary played large in that, as I learned “If I Had A Hammer” and the others and learned how to play and sing at the same time. That music resonated with me, because it raised the same questions I had about injustice and war and growing up. A little part of that young person stays in your soul as you age, surfacing when a high school marching band plays a ‘60s song, or public television has a nostalgia concert or a bunch of people your age at a party say “remember how we used to sing together” and you break into “Michael Row The Boat Ashore”.

When the people who remind you of that little person hidden away in your older person’s body die, a part of that little person dies, too. It makes you sad.

Mary once said “People say to us, ‘Oh, I grew up with your music,’ and we often say, sotto voce, ‘So did we.’ ”

And so, when you say farewell, a part of me does, to.

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