News

Remembering Mary Travers

Multimedia

Audio

Mary Travers, the glamorous blond who sang into the middle microphone with folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary, died September 16 at 72 after a long battle with leukemia.  

Born in 1936, Mary Travers was two years old when her parents moved the family from Kentucky to Greenwich Village in New York City.  By the time she was a teenager, Mary was a full-fledged member of the 1950s Village folk scene, though, at the time, she said music was just a hobby, and she had no plans to sing professionally.

That changed in 1961, when Mary met Bob Dylan's manager, Albert Grossman.  Grossman had decided to put together a folk supergroup to rival the chart-topping Kingston Trio.  He introduced Travers to Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey.

The story of how the group was formed caused many fellow folk singers to brand Peter, Paul and Mary as "too commercial," and not "authentic", but Mary Travers always defended the group's sound and founding, saying they made the music accessible to everyone.

There is no dispute that the trio made folk music popular.  Their first album, "Peter, Paul and Mary," reached Number One shortly after its March 1962 release, and remained at the top of the charts for seven weeks.  The album contained two hit singles:  "If I Had A Hammer"; and "Lemon Tree."

"Peter, Paul and Mary everyone loved," said singer-songwriter Gretchen Peters. "And it's not that it was 'watered down' at all.  That's not why it worked.  I'm not exactly sure why it worked, except that Mary's voice was just a thing of beauty. It was a classically-beautiful voice."

Peters took up the guitar at age 7, and Peter, Paul and Mary songs were the first she learned to play.  But it wasn't just Mary Traver's voice that attracted Gretchen. The harmony singing was equally important.  

"That was a great education, just picking apart who sang what on the albums," she said. "Because sometimes she actually sang lower than one of the guys, she would sometimes sing lower than Peter.  And you'd have to kind of weed out who's singing what in the harmonies. It was not simple, simple stuff, but it was beautiful."

While the group's music proved commercially successful, the group did not play it safe when it came to politics.  Like Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey, Mary Travers was quite outspoken in her support of civil rights and the anti-Vietnam war movement.  Peter, Paul and Mary performed at the historic 1963 March on Washington, and also took part in the 1965 voting rights marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.

After the group disbanded in 1970, Mary Travers continued to perform at political events around the world. The trio reunited in 1978, intending to perform just one show at a benefit to oppose nuclear power.  It was such a success that they continued to perform as a trio until Mary Travers retired in May of this year.

It's no exaggeration to say that Mary Travers and the trio of Peter, Paul and Mary took folk music from the coffeehouse to the mainstream, and helped spread a message of peace and harmony around the world.  Their recordings also proved that folk music could be commercially successful.

Peter, Paul and Mary's music won five Grammy Awards and scored six Top Ten hits, eight gold and five platinum albums.  They also introduced millions to the music of Bob Dylan, and turned "Blowin' In The Wind" into an anthem of the 1960s' protest movement.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs