Folk singer Mary Travers, member of the band Peter, Paul and Mary, died at age 72 from the side effects of chemotherapy used to treat her longstanding leukemia Wednesday at Danbury Hospital. Mary Travers, along with Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey, gained fame in the early 1960s for their folk singing.
According to the New York Daily News, Travers once said in an interview that she wasn’t sure she’d want to be singing Leaving on a Jet Plane at 75, but knew she’d still be singing Blowin’ in the Wind, a song written by Bob Dylan but introduced to the American mainstream by Peter, Paul, and Mary. Leukemia erased Mary Travers’ opportunity to sing Blowin’ in the Wind at age 75.
Peter Yarrow and Noel Stookey both posted moving tributes to their longtime partner on the occasion of Mary Travers death on the Peter, Paul and Mary website.
Yarrow’s Tribute to Mary Travers Upon Her Death
In his tribute to Mary Travers, Yarrow wrote that honesty was at the core of his relationship with both Travers and Stookey.
“The trio’s growth, our creativity, our ability to emerge over the years completely accepting of one another, warts and all, was a miracle,” Yarrow said.
“I have no idea what it will be like to have no Mary in my world…” Yarrow said about Mary Travers’ death. ” 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.”
Stookey’s Memories of Mary Travers Upon Her Death
Stookey also expressed a deep sense of loss at the death of Mary Travers.
“I am heartsick and deadened beyond words,” he said, “to consider a life without Mary Travers and honored beyond my wildest dreams to have shared her spirit and career.”
Stookey, like Yarrow, used the occasion of Mary Travers’ death to reflect on the sometimes brutal honesty underlying the trio’s relationships.
“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…” Stookey remembered.
Mary Travers’ Career
Mary Travers was born in 1936 and spent her formative years in progressive Greenwich Village in New York City where she nourished her inner creativity and associated with other singers in the budding folk movement.
After beginning a successful singing career in her teens, Mary Travers began singing with Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey in Stookey’s apartment. A singing career that began with the simple children’s song Mary Had a Little Lamb soon blossomed into a political movement that reflected the unrest of the turbulent 1960s. Mary Travers and her fellow singers associated with the Civil Rights Movement, performing If I Had a Hammer, during the 1963 March on Washington.
In the 1970s, Mary Travers continued her commitment to human rights while continuing her music career, working with the Center for Development of International Policy. By the 1980s, Peter, Paul, and Mary were raising awareness of repressive government regimes in Central America.
Peter, Paul and Mary produced 13 Top 40 hits, including Blowin’ in the Wind, Puff the Magic Dragon, Where Have All the Flowers Gone, and Leaving on a Jet Plane. Mary Travers also recorded solo albums, lectured, and wrote.
In the mid-1960s, some radio stations refused to play the song Puff the Magic Dragon, under the misapprehension that the song’s lyrics referenced drug use. Yarrow, who co-wrote Puff the Magic Dragon, with Lenny Lipton adamantly denied any connection between the song’s lyrics and the drug culture. Derived from an Ogden Nash poem, “Custard the Dragon,” Puff the Magic Dragon tells the tale of a little boy fascinated with the mythical creatures who eventually grows up and abandons his rich fantasy life: “dragons live forever, but not so little boys….”
Mary Travers is survived by her husband Ethan Robbins, two daughters, Alicia and Erika, a sister and two granddaughters.
Mary Travers once said that it takes more than one generation to bring about change. In her generation, Mary did her part and then some.
Sources: http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/music/2009/09/16/2009-09-16_mary_travers_of_peter_paul_and_mary_dead.html; http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/music/2009/09/16/2009-09-16_mary_travers_of_peter_paul_and_mary_dead.html; http://www.classicbands.com/ppm.html