Peter, Paul and Mary Folk Singer Dies

Mary Travers
Mary Travers

Mary Travers, part of the 1960s folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary, died at a Danbury, Connecticut hospital on Wednesday, succumbing after a long battle with leukemia. She was 72.

Mary Allin Travers was born in Louisville, Kentucky on November 9, 1936. It was the Travers family move from Kentucky to New York City’s famed Greenwich Village where Ms. Travers was swept up in the spell of the American folk music revival. With folk groups like the Weavers gaining popularity in the late 1950s, Ms. Travers soon found herself singing as a backup singer for Weavers founder Pete Seeger with the group the Song Swappers and performing the Mort Sahl Broadway show The Next President.

Working the coffeehouse scene as a solo artist, Ms. Travers met Peter Yarrow and Noel "Paul" Stookey by way of Bob Dylan manager Albert Grossman. Set in between the two beatnik guitarists Mr. Yarrow and Mr. Stookey, Ms. Travers was the pretty, blond, feminine lure Mr. Grossman had been looking for to complete the group. In 1961, the trio Peter, Paul and Mary debuted at the coffeehouse and folk music stage the Bitter End.

;The trio would soon be known for their liberal (progressive) politics with hits like "If I had a Hammer" and "Blowin’ in the Wind," the song which the group performed at the March on Washington in 1963. A resounding theme throughout their careers, including reunions to perform at the anniversary of the Kent State shooting massacre and anti-nuclear benefits, Peter, Paul and Mary were part and parcel of the anti-war and civil rights movements of the 1960s and later voiced opposition to apartheid and promoted equality through song.

The trio were best known for songs like "Leaving on a Jet Plane," "If I Had a Hammer," "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" and "Puff (The Magic Dragon)." Their 1962 "If I Had Hammer" won the trio Grammy awards for best folk recording and best performance by a vocal group. The group would go on to earn three more Grammys during the 1960s, including a final award for the children song collection Peter, Paul and Mommy in 1969.

The trio finally disbanded in 1971, with each member pursuing solo careers. Ms. Travers would record five more albums. Brief Peter, Paul and Mary reunions would follow and the trio continued to tour into 2009, despite Ms. Travers’s leukemia diagnosis in 2004.

In 1999, Peter, Paul and Mary were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame and in 2006 the trio earned the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

In a statement released by the President and CEO of The Recording Academy, Neil Portnow remembered, "As one-third of the five-time GRAMMY winning folk group Peter, Paul, and Mary, Mary Travers was part of one of the most successful folk-singing groups of the 1960s and an integral part of the rise of folk music during this era. With an innate skill for harmonizing, the honesty and authenticity in her voice was reflected in her political activism, and she will forever be remembered for both her music and the progressive movements it inspired. Our deepest sympathies go out to her family, friends, and all who enjoyed the power of her timeless talent.”

Ms. Travers is survived by her husband Ethan Robbins and two daughters, Alicia and Erika.

Author: World Music Central News Department

World music news from the editors at World Music Central


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