A Few Thoughts on Mary Travers

So... I've come out of my blogging hole to write a bit about the passing of a musician whose music was tremendously important to me. Mary Travers died overnight at the age of 72 after a long battle with leukemia.

Peter Paul and Mary were never cool to like in my lifetime. They were too commercial to be remembered fondly by many folk purists, and most people of my generation remember only their 1971 children's album, Peter Paul and Mommy. That's a mistake, though. They were so popular in 1963 that all three of the albums they'd released to that point were in the top ten simultaneously, a feat matched by relatively few artists in the history of popular music.

They were not prolific songwriters. Other than "Puff the Magic Dragon", most of their best known songs were written by other artists. What they were, however, were skillful arrangers, guitarists, and vocalists who brought pop sensibilities to the storied traditions of folk. My first concert was a Peter Paul and Mary show in Reading, PA, before I entered elementary school. I don't remember very much about it, but my parents tell me that I sang along with every song. Their version of Gordon Lightfoot's "Early Mornin' Rain" is one of my favorite songs of all time, and as I told a friend this morning, the amount of time I spent listening to their records left a mark on my tastes so deep and indelible that I find it hard to fully comprehend.

Though they only rarely performed new material together in my lifetime, I owe a profound musical debt to Mary Travers and her musical partners Noel Paul Stookey and Peter Yarrow. May she rest in peace.


Yo La Tengo's New Record is Good

Hello again!