Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

September 17, 2009

Mary Travers, dead at 72

Filed under: music — louisproyect @ 1:20 pm

From the NY Times obituary:

Their sound may have been commercial and safe, but early on their politics were somewhat risky for a group courting a mass audience. Like Mr. Yarrow and Mr. Stookey, Ms. Travers was outspoken in her support for the civil-rights and antiwar movements, in sharp contrast to clean-cut folk groups like the Kingston Trio, which avoided making political statements.

Peter, Paul and Mary went on to perform at the 1963 March on Washington and joined the voting-rights marches from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., in 1965.

Over the years they performed frequently at political rallies and demonstrations in the United States and abroad. After the group disbanded, in 1970, Ms. Travers continued to perform at political events around the world as she pursued a solo career.

“They made folk music not just palatable but accessible to a mass audience,” David Hajdu, the author of “Positively Fourth Street,” a book about Mr. Dylan, Joan Baez and their circle, said in an interview. Ms. Travers, he added, was crucial to the group’s image, which had a lot to do with its appeal. “She had a kind of sexual confidence combined with intelligence, edginess and social consciousness — a potent combination,” he said. “If you look at clips of their performances, the camera fixates on her. The act was all about Mary.”


  1. Mainstream or not, it’s the sort of thing that really does mark the end of youth for some of us. Just about any elementary school teacher I had, including those who worked on army bases, were really into the music of pop folkies and just about any early Motown. That stuff was the soundtrack of GI block parties and helped keep a lot of we army brats a little less than crazy when so many of us had parents in Vietnam. Mary Travers will be missed by a lot of folks.

    Comment by Michael Hureaux — September 18, 2009 @ 1:05 am

  2. Very nice tribute. She will be missed.

    Comment by Renegade Eye — September 18, 2009 @ 7:33 am

  3. Charles Gibson on ABC News had her “bringing harmony in an age of discord”. If this appeared to gloss over her politics, they did show footage of her protesting the Vietnam War, which is better than the obituary in today’s (UK) Guardian.
    A lot of people in the UK call cannabis “puff”. Is this a result of the Magic Dragon, or is it the other way around?

    Comment by skidmarx — September 18, 2009 @ 2:56 pm

  4. Peter Yarrow wrote the song, not Mary, and he has always said that drugs had nothing to do with the lyrics. As I recall, it was inspired by an Ogden Nash poem.

    Comment by Richard Greener — September 18, 2009 @ 9:14 pm

  5. Unlike some other folkies and early rockers who achieved material success, Mary never abandoned the principles she embraced in the 50s and 60s, remaining active in progressive causes throughout her life. Nor should we underestimate the impact that her powerful female voice, mind and body had on the public at large. Her soul goes marchin’ on.

    Comment by burghardt — September 18, 2009 @ 11:09 pm

  6. Very striking voice, very animated delivery.

    (BTW I can’t reply to NT anymore)

    Comment by prianikoff — September 19, 2009 @ 7:46 am

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