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Mary Travers dies from Cancer
Author: Robert Benson

Robert writes about rock/pop music, vinyl record collecting and operates ""
Collecting vinyl records blog

Mary Travers of Peter, Paul & Mary Loses Her Fight With Cancer

Folk music legend Mary Travers passed away on September 16, 2009 from complications related to leukemia. She was 72. Along with her singing partners Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey, the trio were perhaps the most influential folk music trio in American history and together they performed some of the most enduring folk anthems of the 1960s. In fact, the group's first album came out in 1962 and immediately scored hits with their versions of "If I Had a Hammer" and "Lemon Tree," a song which won them Grammys for best folk recording and best performance by a vocal group.

Mary Travers was born in Louisville, Kentucky and in 1938 the family moved to Greenwich Village in New York City, New York. She attended the Little Red School House in New York City, but left in the eleventh grade to pursue her singing career. While in high school, she joined the Song Swappers, a folk group that sang backup for folk icon Pete Seeger. The folk group, Peter, Paul and Mary, began with Mary and "the boys," as she called them, in Noel Paul's East Village apartment singing "Mary Had A Little Lamb." After seven months of rehearsals, the group Peter, Paul and Mary made their debut in 1961 and the aforementioned self-titled debut album made them stars.

In 1963, the group famously performed Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" and "If I Had a Hammer" at the March on Washington, the latter appearing on their second LP Moving, which also boasted Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land" and the playful cut "Puff (The Magic Dragon)."

Leonard Chess
Peter, Paul and Mary

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 with "Blowin' In The Wind" shipping more than 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.

Peter, Paul and Mary became famous for their ability to convey powerful personal and political messages through a repertoire of songs and impeccable harmonies that became, for millions of Americans, an introduction to political awareness and activism in the movements born in the 60's; movements for freedom, justice and social equity. With her stoic, yet playful stature, and her long, flowing blonde hair and signature bangs, and her arresting and passionate vocal delivery, Mary Travers became an irresistible force in Peter, Paul and Mary's performances and legacy.

They sang together over a span of almost 50 years during their career. Together, they won five Grammy Awards, produced thirteen Top 40 hits, six of them reaching into the Top 10 - as well as eight gold and five platinum records. The trio split up to work on solo projects in 1970, and Travers released five albums between 1971 and 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.

Both Yarrow and Stookey released statements about the passing of their singing partner and friend:

Statement by Peter Yarrow:
"Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of my relationship with Mary Travers over the last, almost, 50 years, is how open and honest we were with each other, and I include Noel Paul Stookey in this equation. Such honesty comes with a price, but when you get past the hurt and shock of realizing that you're faulted and frequently wrong, you also realize that you are really loved and respected for who you are, and you become a better person. The trio's growth, our creativity, our ability to emerge over the years completely accepting of one another, warts and all, was a miracle. This gift existed, I believe, because of the music itself, which elicited from each of us the best of who we were. When we performed together, we gave our best to each other and to the audiences who came to hear us." "I have no idea what it will be like to have no Mary in my world, in my life, or on stage to sing with. But I do know there will always be a hole in my heart, a place where she will always exist that will never be filled by any other person. However painful her passing is, I am forever grateful for Mary and her place in my life."

Statement by Noel Paul Stookey:
"as a partner...she could be vexing and vulnerable in the same breath. as a friend she shared her concerns freely and without reservation. as an activist, she was brave, outspoken and inspiring - especially in her defense of the defenseless. and, as a performer, her charisma was a barely contained nervous energy - occasionally (and then only privately) revealed as stage fright." "i am deadened and heartsick beyond words to consider a life without mary travers and honored beyond my wildest dreams to have shared her spirit and her career."

On a personal note, I took my parents to see Peter, Paul and Mary perform at the State Fair in Wisconsin in the late 80's. I remember it vividly, it was a cool August day and it had rained all day and continued to rain as we found our seats. As we were being seated, I saw Mary Travers in the crowd and I got close enough to brush by her, I remember how elated she was to see so many people brave the elements to hear them sing. She alluded to that as she and her partners put on a show for the ages. Her face lit up with glee with every spot on note she delivered. I will miss her, as millions of other fans will as well.

Article by: Robert Benson

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