There was the blonde hair and those bangs that she would periodically fling back, even though they didn’t actually hang in her eyes. She had the look of a model, and so many girls (especially the blondes) of the 60’s owe their looks not to the swinging Londoners but to Mary Travers, the girl with the beautiful voice that identified the lush harmonies of Peter Paul and Mary. It was unmistakably hers, and the sounds the three of them made out of the songs of Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan, among others, certainly helped to elevate those men even higher into the musical stratosphere they occupy.
When most of us think of the group we probably go to a particular song. There were so many of merit, and varied in the theme and style. That they were “folk singers” didn’t hinder them from finding new ways of bringing the songs to us. They evolved and changed without compromising the style that made them a favorite to many generations of listeners. The harmonies were perfect and inventive, and the song choices were inspirational. No one else can do Leaving On A Jet Plane and create the emotional response that occurs when you listen to them sing it.
In spite of much ado about the meaning of Puff The Magic Dragon, he was just a magic dragon. And the loss of innocence that the song conveys and portrays so beautifully and poignantly still leaves me with tears in my eyes. I’ve never gotten over the sadness of that scene where Puff retreats to his cave while little Jackie moves on into adolescence and adulthood. It’s a beautiful song and they made it one of the best loved songs in the world to many generations.
As we say goodbye to Mary, another voice of the 60’s fades away into eternity and we face the future of music with trepidation. I have to wonder if anyone in this generation of stars will have the impact of someone like Mary Travers. How many children will grow up listening to and then sharing the songs that play on the radio today? Is there a Puff out there to cling to, or the poetry of protest over which to grow up and try to change the world? It’s hard to take seriously the opinions of the people creating the images on MTV and, let’s face it, Disney.
I am a child of my generation, of the 60’s. I know I don’t stand alone in believing that it was the best decade from which to emerge, from almost every vantage point: socially; culturally; musically and even spiritually. There were world changers then. We of that decade are the proof because it changed us.
Mary Travers’ voice and music will live on as long as there is a way to listen. The music of Peter Paul and Mary will be downloaded, viewed on video and played on old vinyl as their baby boomer fans start reaching for the albums that have been waiting for resurrection. I, for one, will add her to my mental wall of fame, next to those who have gone on before her.
The answer is blowing in the wind…