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.
Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backersi
X
Michael Bowman
July 26, 2015 8:44 PM
Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Underground Streetcar Station In Washington, DC, to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Rise in HIV Infections Worries Ugandan Officials

Uganda had the third-highest number of new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa last year, reversing its reputation for successfully tackling the epidemic in the 1990s. Although the percentage of people living with HIV/AIDS is still half of what it was in the 1980s, the increase in new infections is worrying to health workers. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs