Thursday, September 17, 2009
For Mary Travers - In Memoriam
Mary Travers has died. She was 72.
Peter, Paul and Mary have always been my favorite performers. From their early years to the present, I have found joy, challenge, and solace in their music. But it was more than that. As they sang songs of protest, they didn't leave their commitment on stage, but lived it out in their work to end war, poverty and discrimination.
Musically, they are extremely skilled. Noel Paul and Peter are superb songwriters and incredibly gifted guitarists and singers. And Mary, with that throaty, sensuous sound, which cut through the air like a knife, brought a haunting vibe to every song they sang together. Who can forget how she would throw her head back, toss her hair, and let loose, challenging heaven itself as she belted out "This Land Is Your Land"?
In 1976, I became friends with Noel Paul Stookey. At the time, I was in charge of a large youth convocation which met at the Sheraton-Boston. I wanted desperately to find a singer to do a benefit concert for world hunger. Those I contacted were very gracious but could not perform due to scheduling conflicts. I also sent a note to Noel Paul Stookey, but heard nothing. Then, out of the blue, I received a letter saying he would be happy to perform a benefit concert for world hunger; that he had been overseas and had just received my note.
We kept in touch for many years, and Lois and I were often provided with free tickets to the trio's concerts, the most exciting of which was just after they reunited to go back on tour.
While I did not know Mary in a personal sense, I did say "Hello" and listened in on her conversations backstage after the concerts. She was unfailingly polite, gregarious, knowledgeable and had a great sense of humor.
We last saw Peter, Paul and Mary in concert in Coral Springs, Florida six years ago. They never failed to inspire as well as entertain. I got a chance to talk a bit with Noel Paul Stookey during an intermission where we renewed our acquaintance.
It is hard to believe that never again will Peter, Paul and Mary fill a concert hall with their incredible, unique, and most beautiful music.
Rest in peace, Mary!
You can find tributes to Mary by Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey as well as photos and much more on their website here.