September 17, 2009

R.I.P. Mary Travers

My heart is heavy this morning. The first thing I heard on the news when I woke up was that Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary had died. I knew she had been sick for years, suffering from leukemia, and that she had taken a turn for the worse over the summer, so it wasn't totally unexpected. Still, I feel like a part of my childhood is gone.

I first heard about PP&M when I was 12 years old and went to Girl Scout camp for the first time. Like millions of other people around the world, we'd sit around the campfire at night singing their songs: Puff, Blowin' in the Wind, Cruel War, and on and on. I got my first guitar when I was 14. I bought a PP&M songbook and a book of chord diagrams and taught myself how to play. That summer, my sister took me to my very first live concert -- PP&M at Carter Barron Amphitheater in Washington, DC. I sat with binoculars and watched the chords Peter and Paul played on every song. I sang along with them, as did the rest of the audience. It was magical!

I can't even count how many times I saw them in concert through the years. I introduced my sons to their music when they were just babies, and took them to see PP&M at Wolf Trap. The first time we took Paul to see them, I stood in line for hours the day that tickets went on sale. It was worth it -- we actually ended up sitting in folding chairs in the orchestra pit! We could see the sweat on their brows as they sang. Before the concert began, I saw the three of them standing in the wings, waiting to make their signature entrance (holding hands and running onstage). Mary actually looked at me and waved! Wow!

I remember when they broke up the group in the late '60's. They each wanted to try a solo career, but they were never as successful as when the three of them sang together. Less than 10 years later -- in 1978, to be exact -- they came back together for their "Reunion" tour. I remember going to Merriweather Post Pavillion and watching them, tears running down my eyes when they came out for an encore and sang "Like the First Time". The words: Like the first time, only better, we're a song that must be sung together. How true.

Think about what an impact these three people had on the culture and history of our country. They stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. at the March on Washington. They rallied people to fight against discrimination and apartheid; they fought for peace around the world. They were activists for almost 50 years!

To me, though, that was secondary to their music. The intricate harmonies, the moving lyrics, the funny children's songs -- so much talent and so much joy. I still choose to listen to their music most any time over any other artists I know.

So, farewell, Mary. It was a wonderful 50 years! Thank you for all the memories you helped me to create. I'll miss you!

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