Wednesday, September 16, 2009

She had a Song

A very sad day at the Café, and many other places, with the news that we've lost Mary Travers. I'm only relieved that over at JMG and elsewhere, others have already revealed how much "Puff, the Magic Dragon" made them cry (still can, here), and for me add to that list "Early Morning Rain," "Blowin' in the Wind," and even "Lemon Tree."

For a long time it was fashionable to laugh at folk music and the sixties folkies, at what seemed to cool punks/new wavers/new romantics like us the solemn pretension and the laughable idealism. That, of course, turned out to be just silly. I think I realized that, once and for all, when watching (and rewatching) the beautiful Christopher Guest comedy A Mighty Wind, which set out to lambaste folkies and neo-folkies but ended up with something lovely and even, in a subplot about a bittersweet reunion between a once-hot duo act, a song ("A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow") almost as moving as anything PP&M once sang.

Looking here, at Peter, Paul, and Mary, the boys in suits and Mary in her lady dress and heels, I realize that this is just about the time I was born; the same year, at least. They are living, here, in a world in which segregation is still having to be beaten back, in which women work in typing pools, and in which a terrible war is gathering strength on the far side of the world. I don't know that you can argue that folk music, or sixties idealism, or any single factor at all, can change the world. I do know that some combination of all of those, however much we dismiss the decade as a marketing hook or what seems to some a half-forgotten bad dream that ended poorly, did, in fact, change the world.

By the time they sang the same song again in a video made in Tokyo (of all places - but the audience sings along), decades later, the boys balding and Mary a trifle more matriarchal, all three less certain of voice but still singing, think how different - how much better, though still so far from perfect - our world was and is today: more justice, more freedom, and more love. That's the legacy of Mary Travers, and a damn fine one it is.

I think for a while I won't think about this any more; I'll just think she's left us on a jet plane, gone 500 miles, don't know when she'll be back again...


  1. no! so sad! such a classic folk music gift.

  2. listen to "children one and all" an album entitled "mary". so beautiful.

  3. A loss, to be sure.

    Sad to see that Henry Gibson has also left this sphere... though it somehow bookends nicely.

    I picture Mr. Gibson approaching Ms. Travers in the ether with his lone flower and a poem of welcome.