I just read on CNN news that one of my all-time favorite singers has died. Mary Travers, of the famed Peter, Paul, and Mary trio died from side effects of treatment from a bone-marrow transplant after battling leukemia.
The songs of Peter, Paul and Mary were as influential on the 60s and 70s as those of Pete Seeger, and called people to action as the civil rights and anti-war movements moved into full swing. In 1963, the trio performed its hit song “If I Had a Hammer” at the Washington march where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famed “I Have a Dream Speech.”
That was a profound moment for me, and the idealist in me believed that if people only paid attention to what the songs were saying, we could end all the evils in society.
That was especially true of “Blowing in the Wind.” How could a person listen to those lyrics and not want to change their ways? That song spoke to my soul in ways few other songs do, and I still count it as one of my favorites.
It was also one of the first songs I learned to play on guitar, and when I sing it now it still stirs my soul.
Recently I was listening to a CD of Peter, Paul, and Mary all-time hits, and I realized I know every song on the CD. I learned them all when we used to do Hootenannies at church.
For those young folks who read this a hootenanny is an informal performance by folk singers, typically with participation by the audience. )
Recently, I’ve idly thought about getting a hootenanny going at a venue here in my little corner of East Texas, and maybe this is the impetus to make it happen.
Rest in peace, dear Mary, your music will live on.
The singer was born in Louisville, Kentucky, in November 1936 and grew up in New York’s Greenwich Village. As a teenager, she performed in a Broadway review, but stepped on to the folk music scene in the 1950s. She emerged as an iconic folk singer while performing with Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey.
Peter, Paul and Mary came together while singing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” in Stookey’s New York City apartment. They went on to play gigs at coffee houses and later on the radio.
“As a performer, her charisma was a barely contained nervous energy — occasionally (and then only privately) revealed as stage fright,” Stookey said.
Their music reflected the 1960s and the 1970s, a time of turmoil as the civil rights and anti-war movements moved into full swing.
Travers applied her recognition to rally behind those progressive movements. In 1963, the trio performed its hit song “If I Had a Hammer” at the Washington march where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famed “I Have a Dream Speech,” her publicist said.