Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Remembering Mary Travers, Folk Singer And Supporter Of Progressive Causes

It is with great sadness that I reflect upon the death on Wednesday of Mary Travers, 72, of Peter, Paul and Mary. I saw the trio perform twice and was struck by her strong, clear voice and passionate convictions. Clenching her fist and tossing back her hair, Mary made it clear that she believed what she sang. She was part of a group that, at possible risk to their careers, took part in the civil rights and antiwar causes. Among the anthems that Peter, Paul and Mary sang were "Blowin' in the Wind," "The Times They Are A Changin' " and "If I Had A Hammer"; here is a performance of the latter in 1963:


mjmand said...

In the past few weeks we have lost William Borsay (Willy DeVille), Ellie Greenwich and now Mary Travers. Each of the three had a major impact on the music that I enjoy. I read William Grimes' obituary in the NY TImes and something struck me. Grimes made mention that Mary, during the heyday of their career, from 1963 to 1970, rarely spoke in concert. He said that this was a suggestion made by Albert Grossman; the purpose of which was to maintain her "mysterious" persona. I remember reading an interview with Mary sometime after the group split in 1970. She said that she now believed that it was a sexist gesture by her male counterparts to which she had, unfortunately, agreed. There was considerable resentment. She even made mention of her feelings at a later concert. Apparently she agreed to reunite with Peter and Noel Paul only if the working arrangement had changed. As evidenced by the concerts of the 80s and 90s, things had changed. They became consumate performing professionals who put on one of the most entertaining concerts I have ever seen. So now there is no more Peter, Noel & Mary - something is already missing.

Jeff Tone said...

mjmand: Actually, Grossman's instruction of silence is referred to in the NY Times article I linked in my post: "On instructions from Grossman, who wanted her to retain an air of mystery, she never spoke." It clearly was sexist for her to have to play the role of the "mysterious female." I saw PP&M a few years ago and clearly saw that things had changed. Now, sadly, they've changed again, and something indeed is missing: Mary was an irreplaceable part of the trio.