All right Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up

17 September 2009

The Answers are Blowing in the Wind-In Appreciation, Mary Travers

“We’ve learned that it will take more than one generation to bring about change," Mary once said. “The fight for civil rights has developed into a broader concern for human rights, and that encompasses a great many people and countries. Those of us who live in a democracy have a responsibility to be the voice for those whose voices are stilled." Mary Travers

She was the emotional and physical center as she stood and sang from her soul between the "boys" Noel Paul Stokey and Peter Yarrow as the heart of Peter, Paul and Mary. Mary Travers' powerful and passionate presence with her blond swingy hair transcended the traditional folk music audience.

Peter, Paul and Mary made folk music accessible, they introduced Bob Dylan to a mainstream audience and believed that folk music could reach all people across race and economic lines. Their music was the background theme music for the extraordinary events and change this country went through in the 1960s and it was also an instrument of that change and a catalyst for a movement of peace and equality.

Unlike a lot of the "pop culture" of the decade,however, Peter Paul and Mary's music did not fade as the country changed and they "showed up" wherever there was injustice, whenever the country needed to hear their voices they were there-anti-nuclear, anti-apartheid, worker's rights...and at the center was Mary Travers. Her voice resonated through halls, and across parks and in auditoriums throughout the country-audiences came for the music and left believing the world could be a better place. To achieve that change Peter, Paul and Mary shared the music, believing the music should be passed on to generations as they did in Peter, Paul and Mommy
and my favorite Peter, Paul & Mommy, Too . I love the PBS specialPeter, Paul and Mommy, Too [90 Minute Concert] [VHS] and watching Mary sing from her very core to her grandchildren was a memorable three Kleenex moment that should be shared with all ages.

The trio sang together for nearly 50 years. They won five Grammy's,had 13 Top 40 hits including songs such as "Blowing' In The Wind," "If I Had A Hammer," "Leaving On A Jet Plane," "Where Have All The Flowers Gone," "500 Miles" and, of course, "Puff, The Magic Dragon." "If I Had a Hammer" became an anthem of the Civil Rights movement” as they sang at the 1963 March on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his legendary “I Have a Dream” speech.

Their roots were in folk music but it was Mary Travers presence that helped them reach beyond the coffee house tradition and reach top 40 status and who kept their music out in front as an instrument of change and the sound of political action for every decade since. Traditionalists criticized that perhaps they "sold out" but Mary Travers would argue that they were accessible and singing to so many more people- moving them to action with their voices and reaching more than one generation with their call for freedom and justice.

"I'm not sure I want to be singing 'Leaving on a Jet Plane' when I'm 75," she said in one interview. "But I know I'll still be singing 'Blowin' in the Wind.' "
Their work may be best known for the anthems they sang during the anti-war and civil rights movements but they continued to be out in front of the movements that were to change the direction of America, championing the rights of the disenfranchised and the legitimacy of those who fought for fairness. They proved time and again that music can change the world and Mary Travers voice peace and justice and a better planet will be missed.

"I have a sort of sampler in my head," Travers said, "that--paraphrasing the rabbinical scholar--says, 'It's not your duty to finish the task, it is your duty not to neglect it.' If war and hunger and racism were easy things to get rid of, I would assume we would have gotten rid of them already."