9/17/09 Jim Hudak Clayton, CA Mary Travers Passes At Age 72 From Leukemia For openers, we quote Robert Shelton, the New York Times music critic who wrote in the early 1960’s: “Sex appeal as a keystone for a folk-song group was the idea of the group’s manager, (Albert Grossman), who searched for months for 'the girl' until he decided on Miss Travers.” This, of course, was in reference to Peter, Paul, and Mary, the ultimate folk music trio. Then there was Peter Yarrow, also from PP&M, who said, “When you look at Mary, you’ve gotta’ think of sex.” Back in the day, as a pre-pubescent youth who loved music, I certainly did. (Think of sex when I saw pictures of Mary, that is). This is mentioned because in her post PP&M days, Mary turned hugely overweight, and to many, at least by her physical attributes, quite unattractive. But that didn’t deter her spirit, or her voice. She kept singing, and remained an activist till the end. Many, like me, never forgot her sex appeal. More importantly, we never forgot her and her trio’s music and influence. Mary Allin Travers passed away yesterday, and today we mourn – and remember. I just heard Derk Richardson, host of The Hear And Now radio show on KPFA in Berkeley, play a nice set of four or five songs that she sang “lead” on: “Too Much Of Nothing,” “The Song Is Love,” and “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” among them. One is instantly reminded of the power and clarity of Mary’s voice. Yet, as is often the case, she was best showcased when singing with others, especially in Peter, Paul, and Mary. She even sang with Mama Cass on some recordings. It’s impossible to measure the full impact of Peter Paul and Mary. Protest singers, folk singers, and musicians with beautiful three-part harmony and understated yet intricate two-guitar parts underlying their vocals, they were the leaders of the folk movement back in the day. Virtually everyone in my generation loved them, and looked to them for leadership and inspiration. I have at least four of their albums, in vinyl, though I also bought a couple of their “reel to reel” tape releases (imagine that!) that are part of my collection of their music. PP&M were their generation’s version of The Weavers. They sang about racism, political injustice and prejudice, and anything pertinent to social issues of their day. They even mixed in a love song or two. Paul Stookey’s “Wedding Song” still remains one of the most requested contemporary songs of all time for weddings, even in this “sophisticated” day and age. So with Mary’s passing, we all feel a little bit older. Indeed, lots of people important to baby boomers have left us recently: Patrick Swayze, Farrah Fawcett, Ed McMahon, Paul Newman, and yes, on a whole different level, Michael Jackson, among many others. As the cliché goes, “We’re all reminded of our own mortality.” It’s true. Sad but true. We’re all getting older. And like Mary Travers, we all will die. I’m glad she made it as long as she did. She’s an icon who had a significant impact on a great many of us, and I’m fortunate to have been one of the beneficiaries of her talent and goodness. JH

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