"Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary ... Dead at 72"
The news came to us from Danbury, Connecticut early in the morning on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2009: Mary Travers, one-third of the popular folk singing trio Peter, Paul and Mary, had died at the age of 72 after a long battle with leukemia.
And the memories began to flow. Thoughts of such songs as "If I Had A Hammer," "Leaving On A Jet Plane," and -- of course -- "Blowin' In The Wind," came flooding back.
Back then, popular music had a way of being truly political. And practically no one mixed their music with politics better than Peter, Paul and Mary. "Hammer" became an anthem for personal liberation and racial equality. There version of Bob Dylan's "Blowin' In The Wind" was also a signature song for the civil rights movement, and the group marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Alabama and preformed the song while King was preparing to speak in Washington.
Folks my age remember when the sad tale of innocence lost -- "Puff the Magic Dragon" -- became a large hit for the trio and sparked unsubstantiated rumors that it was all about marijuana.
I was a big fan of Peter, Paul and Mary and the songs they used to sing. When I made the switch from teen rock bassist to acoustic singer-songwriter in my mid-teens, the trio and folks like John Denver, James Taylor and Gordon Lightfoot provided the footprints to follow.
With a six- or twelve-string guitar and few of their lyrics scratched on notebook paper, you could put together a pretty good act for coffee shops in the River Quay and gathering places like Volker Park near the Plaza.
Sometimes I miss those days. I miss the singers. I miss the lyrics. I miss the way music was involved in all of life and how it reflected the politically charged atmosphere of the times.
Later, I was one of those old folks who sat in front of the television watching the reunion concerts on public television and wondering where all the flower children had gone. Oh yeah, there they were, singing along on every note ... "The answer my friend, is blowing in the wind. The answer is blowing in the wind."
Mary Allin Travers was born on Nov. 9, 1936 in Louisville, Ky., and died September 16, 2009, in Danbury, Connecticut.
You'll be missed, Mary Travers. You'll be missed.