Mary Travers Link Collection

As promised, here is the “more” about Mary Travers.

Here is the New York Times article about her life. Travers’ “long blond hair and willowy figure” made her the focal point of the group. And there was that rich, smoky voice. Together with Paul Stookey and Peter Yarrow, Peter, Paul and Mary brought counterculture into the mainstream:

The group’s interpretations of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” translated his raw vocal style into a smooth, more commercially acceptable sound. The singers also scored big hits with pleasing songs like the whimsical “Puff the Magic Dragon” and John Denver’s plaintive “Leaving on a Jet Plane.”

Their sound may have been commercial and safe, but early on their politics were somewhat risky for a group courting a mass audience. Like Mr. Yarrow and Mr. Stookey, Ms. Travers was outspoken in her support for the civil-rights and antiwar movements, in sharp contrast to clean-cut folk groups like the Kingston Trio, which avoided making political statements.

Peter, Paul and Mary went on to perform at the 1963 March on Washington and joined the voting-rights marches from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., in 1965.

At The Reaction, J. Thomas Duffy has photographs and videos of PP&M performances.

Rick Moran, a conservative blogger who is also an independent thinker and not always predictable, writes eloquently and movingly about his family’s love for folk music and what Mary Travers, and PP&M, meant to him:

Mary Travers, Peter Yarrow, and Paul Stookey sang songs that posed questions about American society – and the human condition – that demanded answers. And around campfires, and library sing alongs, our family belted out the music, harmonizing and sharing our sheer joy of being together, learning, laughing, loving. This is why the death of these folk icons are almost like a death in the family to me. The memories the songs they wrote and sang are so powerful, so sweet, so full of the things that make life worth living for all of us, that I cannot help but allow a tear or two to course down my cheek.

As a musical group, Peter, Paul, and Mary were polished, professional, and chose their music with the utmost care. Their manager/producer, the legendary Milt Okun saw to that. With his keen ear and unfailing sense of a commercially viable package, Okun made Peter, Paul, and Mary into a hugely popular act whose success lasted almost a decade. Okun would go on to manage other iconic folk groups like The Chad Mitchell Trio, the Brothers Four, and John Denver.

It was their rendition of Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind that launched their careers. At once beautifully harmonized and featuring a driving rhythm, the song – along with their other huge hits If I had a Hammer and Where have all the Flowers Gone – became anthems of the civil rights and anti-war movements. It is perhaps telling that Hammer and Flowers were both written and originally sung by Pete Seeger and his 50’s era group The Weavers, who were banned in many jurisdictions for their left wing sympathies.

When you’re a kid, you don’t think much about the politics of a song. You sing it because it’s good music and stirs emotions in your breast. Today, I probably don’t agree with 90% of the politics promoted by Seeger, Travers, Baez, and the rest of the folkies from that time. But you can’t argue with the fact that they were dead right about civil rights, and I still think they were mostly right about the Viet Nam War.

I learned long ago you can love left wing writers, artists, singers, and actors by admiring the talent while ignoring the politics. Barbara Streisand is a putz about politics, but an extraordinary talented singer. Joan Didion writes achingly beautiful prose (as does John Updike), but I wouldn’t give a fig for their political opinions. That’s how I feel about Mary Travers and Peter Paul and Mary.

Another conservative blog, Political Byline, has some stunning PP&M videos, and this rather comic commentary:

On a personal note, My mother loved this group as a young lady and still does to this day. With my Mom and many of the other young people at the time; politics was the farthest thing from their minds. They were just enjoying the good music and singing. I am also well aware of the politics of this woman and the other members of the group. However, I do believe a bit clarification is in order.  I believe that the liberalism of this woman’s era was not the same stripe of the liberalism of today. It is sort of hard to explain, there has been books written about it.  It was the Kennedy Liberalism and not the kind of Liberalism of Barack Obama.

Courtney at Feministing says it in a nutshell:

At a time when there are too few women singing about social justice in the mainstream music world, it’s easy to admire such a bold, unapologetic voice. And hot damn if she didn’t have some hot dresses back in the day. RIP Mary.

When I do these roundups, I try to find pieces that don’t say the same old thing, or at least say it differently. Here’s one, at a blog I don’t usually read, but I really, really like this guy’s style:

Kids, here’s what you missed if you never made it to a Peter, Paul and Mary concert. Because now it is truly, and for all time, too late.

Mary Travers is gone to where the flowers are.

[…]
As PPM fans go, I’m not much. I only saw them live two times. But that was enough to know what the rest of you missed. If those were your songs, these were your singers. And everybody else in the hall felt the same way.

I got to see third and maybe fourth generations of kids thrill to Puff the Magic Dragon. Singing along in the audience of a Peter, Paul and Mary concert is as close as I’ll ever get to riding in the peloton for a bike race. Even an average (or less) singer was carried along by the wave. And it was likely that the folks on either side of you were handling seriously musical harmonies and syncopations.

But beyond that was the sense of collective mission. For a couple of hours you were part of a movement that shared values along with melodies. While Tom [Lehrer] was right to skewer the ephemeral effect of the “folk song army” (ready, aim, sing!), it’s still true that such moments hold the power to inspire.

For all the real turmoil of the politics of the Vietnam War, there was a gentleness in the politics of these songs and their singing that are about as far from current political discourse as one can imagine. They were a model for civil action that did not require violence.

How much did it matter that they sang “Blowin’ in the Wind” with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.? How much did it matter that so many of their wonderful songs were simple enough for even average guitarists to play (if not nearly as well)? Or that they passed along elements of the great folk music tradition that had nothing to do with politics to another and another generation?

It mattered to lots of us.

You unlucky souls who missed those concerts can easily find their music. Albums and videos are easy to locate and play. And Peter and Paul are apparently working as a duo these days. That’s not bad.

But oh, what it was like to have all three of them weave you the sunshine right there in front of you.

9 Responses to “Mary Travers Link Collection”

  1. Patrick says:

    I am not really sure what was so damned funny or “Comic” about my comment about her. I was being honest and trying to show a little class.

    You should really look into that yourself.

    -Patrick

  2. Kathy says:

    Patrick,

    What was comic was the way you seemed to be trying to justify or explain to your readers why you would be saying positive things about someone with left-wing political views, like Mary Travers and PP&M in general. In order to do that, you had to reach for a comically implausible explanation — that the liberalism of Travers and PP&M was somehow “different” from the liberalism of now. It isn’t. I don’t know your age, but I was very much around in that era, and conservatives then were just as much going on about folk singers like Mary Travers and Pete Seeger and the Weavers, etc., etc., being “communists” or “socialists” and being traitors and aiding the enemy for opposing the Vietnam war.

    Nothing has changed. Now, today, in 2009, it may look to you, looking back to 35 or 40 years ago, like *those* liberals were “different.” Thirty or 40 years from now, someone just like you will be saying the same thing about Barack Obama’s liberalism, and some other liberal/left politician will be the super-dangerous liberals.

    That’s what I found comic. Hope that helps.

  3. Patrick says:

    Katy,

    Go to Wikipedia.

    Look up Neo-Liberalism and Classic Liberalism and then come talk to me about what exactly you know.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classic_liberalism

    and

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoliberalism

    again, you are wrong and your knowledge of the history of liberalism proves that.

    Good Day!

  4. Chief says:

    Peter, Paul & Mary made a lot of good, no, great, music. My all time favorite is “Leaving On A Jet Plane.” Why? Because at the time that song was popular, I was in the U.S. Navy and when we deployedto somewhare on Mother Earth, it was always from an airport and on a jet plane. The song brings back a lot of good memories.

  5. Chief says:

    Patrick,

    IF you’ve read the links (and understood) that you provided, you’d realize that what Kathy said about liberals in the ’60s – ’70s is not materially different from what is considered progressive liberalism today.

    The link to Classic liberalism is an anachronism.

  6. Kathy says:

    Patrick, I was there, lol. I don’t have to research “neoliberalism” and “classic liberalism” on Wikipedia.

  7. Dan says:

    Introduction, so you “know who’s talking,” and then I’ll say something about Mary Travers toward the end of my sermon. I voted for Clinton because there was evidence that he governed Arkansas from the center. I sat out his re-election, though I soon began to see that he and Gingrich (perhaps as equally brilliant as flawed) were providing us with a reasonably effective government. I never liked W; I remain, with many qualifications, pro-Choice, with a libertarian sensibility. But I am what everyone on this site would call a “conservative” (or words far worse); and no, I have not found God.

    I do not believe of you what so many “liberals” believe of me. I do not believe that you are “bad” people. I simply believe that you are wrong about a great deal. You want to help people, I know, and you accept the fiction that we do not. (It is, finally, our means that confuse so many of you. (If you could see a video of my life, a few of you, owing to reasons of temperament, might be inclined to view “conservatives” somewhat differently–but too few of you, unfortunately.)

    Now, to Patrick’s point, and mine. The following is from John F. Kennedy’s Inaugrual Address. Read JFK’s FIRST TWO PARAGRAPHS, and ask yourself if you can even imagine one of today’s “liberals” stating that “the rights of man come not from the generosity of the State, but from the hand of God.” (Your “religious” views are irrelevant here. Is it even possible that you do not immediately see the inherent advantages of such a form of government? If our rights come from GOD, any GOVERNMENT will find it a daunting task to take these rights away from us–and will never succeed, not without a fight (and I, being a conservative, shoot straight). This is only one of the reasons conservatives (even the lapsed-Catholic godless types like me) speak so often about our Founding Fathers.

    JFK’s speech concludes with the next four paragraphs. Just read it, if you’re interested. I won’t be back to review or reply; there’s no point;, and I don’t have time to debate the Patriot Act. But I will say this: “liberalism” has changed a GREAT deal. Even Bill Clinton worked WITH “business” (and cut taxes). I cannot thus far say the same of the current occupant of the White House. Here’s JFK, how he BEGINS. Imagine any “liberal” today saying such words:

    “We observe today not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom—symbolizing an end, as well as a beginning—signifying renewal, as well as change. For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forebears prescribed nearly a century and three quarters ago.
    The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty, and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe—the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God….

    “In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility—I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it—and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.
    And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.
    My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.
    Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own. ”

    Gee, he’s even sounds (gasp)–I don’t know, like, almost, like, not ASHAMED of his country or something. (How passe.) News Flash: They wouldn’t even let John F. Kennedy walk INTO the Democratic Convention today–and he wouldn’t WANT to. And though most of you will find the next statement mystifying, I doubt that they’d let Bobby in, either. (Old-guard “liberals” especially tend to see Bobby–whom they “understood” in their adolescence, i.e., not at all–through Teddy’s politics. And Teddy was no RFK.)

    I recently heard a fellow I regard as quite bright–the “good liberal” Jon Stewart–call Harry S. Truman a “war criminal.” (He’s a decent man, Jon Stewart, and I like him. But I was actually embarrassed for him–embarrassed that a man of his intelligence could to this extent allow his heart to rule his head.) To be honest, I’ve come to a similar conclusion about most “liberals.” You’re nice people (until you find out how I vote), I like you, and you’re well intentioned. But you’re too often unable or unwilling to look around the next corner, to look objectively at the unintended consequences of your “compassionate” policies. Example: In 2007, 40 percent of all babies born in the United States were born out of wedlock. Does any of you HONESTLY believe that this is in the best interest of CHILDREN? Of WOMEN?

    Do you regard what I’m saying here as some sort of an attack on the genuinely heroic efforts of many single mothers? Do you somehow imagine that I’m talking about the BIBLE here? You actually haven’t figured out yet–though the evidence is all around you?–that most boys really DO need to have their fathers living in the home with them–and preferably married to their mothers? You don’t yet know that we need tax policies that “incentivize” responsible behavior BECAUSE MARITAL STABILITY IS GOOD FOR CHILDREN? Folks, Compassion is wonderful, but here’s the question: When you create more and more government “safety nets” to help those who’ve made one stupid life-decision after another, will you end up with: a) FEWER people who continuously make stupid life-decisions, or b) MORE people who continuously make stupid life-decisions? If your city has the most wonderful program for the homeless in the country, will your city end up with: a) FEWER homeless people, or b) MORE homeless people?

    Has the thought never occurred to you that you might be condemning some of the very people you wanted most sincerely to help, women and children? Your professors told you (confidently) that the Family is in some “great transitional phase,” one that simple-minded chaps like me resist (or fear, etc.).

    Yes. Of course. That MUST be it. (Your knowledge of male nature is truly awe-inspiring.)

    Mary Travers…who had a VOICE like that?! Powerful but as sweet as a breaking bell. Mama Cass was great, and I Iiked Joplin an awful lot–no point in comparing them. PP&M was the first album I ever got, at least the first that had people singing; I was just a kid, really a kid, and already I wanted to protect her and also bite her neck. Many songs, many–but listen again to 500 Miles and “Hammer.” I can still picture her when she was young–that sweet fragile girl, all heart, could really belt out a song.

    G’night, Mary. Sweet Dreams.

  8. Dave says:

    I miss Mary. I loved so many things about her; her politics, her subtle sense of humor, and most of all, her gorgeous voice. And I knew that when she sang, “The Last Thing On My Mind,” she was speaking to me and me alone. Please rest in peace, Mary.

  9. Kathy says:

    Dan,

    I won’t address everything in your appropriately named “sermon,” but this point is one of my pet peeves about conservatives:

    he following is from John F. Kennedy’s Inaugrual Address. Read JFK’s FIRST TWO PARAGRAPHS, and ask yourself if you can even imagine one of today’s “liberals” stating that “the rights of man come not from the generosity of the State, but from the hand of God.” (Your “religious” views are irrelevant here. Is it even possible that you do not immediately see the inherent advantages of such a form of government? If our rights come from GOD, any GOVERNMENT will find it a daunting task to take these rights away from us–and will never succeed, not without a fight (and I, being a conservative, shoot straight). This is only one of the reasons conservatives (even the lapsed-Catholic godless types like me) speak so often about our Founding Fathers.

    Why is it that “our rights come from God and not government” when conservatives want to curry favor with the religious right, but “are only for U.S. citizens” when the same conservatives are arguing against giving prisoners at Guantanamo the same legal rights we have?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Connect with Facebook

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>