Mary Travers, the Mary who blended her voice with Peter and Paul, has died at 72 according to published reports at CNN.com.
Watching a world pass them by but sticking to the idealism that made them 60s favorites, PP&M were the VH1 band of their day that wanted to break on MTV but not lose their loyal listeners. Puff (The Magic Dragon) wasn’t about anything but a child’s imaginary playmate they insisted, much like The Beatles insisted that many of their well known drug songs were simple odes about fun places.
Back to back Grammy Awards in 1962-1963 for Best Pop Performance for If I Had A Hammer and Leaving On A Jet Plane established the trio in music’s mainstream. They were no longer the torch bearers of Seeger’s legacy, but a musical force (much like early Kanye) that could keep a foot on each side of the road and walk straight down the center.
The artists they influenced are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as are the artists that influenced them. They gave voice to Bobby Zimmerman’s Blowin’ in the Wind. They did the same thing for John Denver’s Leaving on a Jet Plane in that awkward period the Far Out guy experienced between the Chad Mitchell days and his stint as a Rocky Mountain troubadour.
Peter Paul & Mary covered Dylan especially well. In The Wind, the band’s third album in 1963, featured three Dylan penned tracks. They would constantly return to Dylan covers, including I Shall Be Released and Too Much of Nothing. Tim Hardin was another favorite songwriter to cover, as was influence Pete Seeger.
Perhaps no better measure of the respect PP&M generated is found in the musicians credits on their albums. Artists like Herbie Hancock grace the credits of the band’s discography. And if Paul Stookey wanted to write songs and Peter Yarrow wanted to produce them, Mary Travers was the soaring voice cementing the two and firmly establishing the trio in pop music history.
RIP Mary. Day is done.