Mary Travers, Folkie Heart Throb, 1936-2009


The politically correct response among fans of bona-fide folk music to the astonishing success of Peter, Paul and Mary in the mid-1960’s was to dismiss their glossy covers of “Blowin’ In the Wind,” and “If I Had a Hammer,” as the fatal commercialization of a genuine American art form.

On the other hand, within our secret souls, Mary Travers set every heart – male and female — aflutter.

She had silky hair of gold, a face and figure every bit as adorable as Tuesday Weld, and a voice that rang like a clear, throaty bell. She also had an air of mystery that invited any fantasy. We now know from her obituary today that her silence was suggested by folk-rock mega agent Albert Grossman who understood it would add to her intrigue. But she was also genuinely shy, someone who had to be coaxed onto the stage by the likes of Theodore Bikel and The Weavers’ Fred Hellerman.

Not to mention that PP & M gave Bob Dylan (a later Grossman client) the biggest boost he could hope for by causing the greater part of a generation to start asking about the guy who penned those stunning lyrics.

Another crucial fact not known to many back then — as also revealed in today’s obit — was that she had already served folk music’s most sacred cause by singing backup on the reissue of Pete Seeger’s seminal “Talking Union” album on Folkways in 1955.

Mary Travers, long time passing, singing now for St. Peter’s choir.