Musings on a Celebrity Death

As I reported yesterday, Mary Travers has died. Now, normally celebrity deaths don’t phase me. Michael Jackson. Puhleeze. But Mary Travers. That has, and she wasn’t even my favorite of the trio (I’m a Peter Yarrow fan).

My parents weren’t PP&M folks. In fact, I don’t recall them playing much music at home (it wasn’t until I was older that my dad got into Jolson, although he always had cast albums and Sinatra… he just didn’t play them). My brother, however, was into playing guitar (this was the 1960s), and he was into PP&M. As for me, I don’t have much memory of what music I was into during my elementary years. Personal music wasn’t as vital to elementary school kids in the early 1960s: full-on stereos were expensive, teen things, and your parents had the expensive hi-fis. Kids? We had AM radios, so I guess I was just listening to 93KHJ.

After my brother died in 1970, I inherited his records and stereo. It was then I discovered his PP&M collection, and they rapidly grew to be my favorites. All through Jr. High and High School, if you asked who my favorite band was, it was Peter, Paul, and Mary. While others got into disco, I was into folk music. Perhaps this is why I was never a dancer in high school. You can’t really dance to Peter, Paul and Mary. After their breakup, I focused on Peter Yarrow and collected his solo albums.

In college, I was still a PP&M fan, although gravitating to more original cast albums and other folk music. After PP&M got back together, I remember getting their new albums. I went to PP&M concerts whenever I could. I remember going with my girlfriend of the time to a PP&M concert at the Hollywood Bowl. I remember seeing PP&M with my wife at the Universal Amphitheatre and the Greek Theatre. I remember Noel Paul singing “Don’t Do ‘Da Dope”. I remember Mary talking about her Republican Son-In-Law, and how she would just agitate him. I remember Peter singing “Puff the Magic Dragon”, and Mary emphasizing “Blowin in the Wind”.

As Mary got sick, their concerts got less and less. I think they were last out in Los Angeles in 2006, but as the concert was in Orange County, we couldn’t make it. They were last in LA proper in 2003 or 2004. We saw folks like Tom Paxton more frequently, and learned about different avenues in folks (as well as getting into Swing via BBVD). But PP&M were always special.

So Mary’s death has taken away one piece of my childhood. Peter and Noel Paul will likely resume touring, probably with some guest artists (as they did with Tom Paxton). The songs will be familiar, but one voice will be missing. I hope Mary’s spirit lives on, and that we will always remember that insatiable urging for justice and doing the right thing for all people that PP&M sang about, even for the people that don’t have the voice to always be heard. In Mary’s memory, I listened to all PP&M and Mary’s Solo albums (I have 3 of 5) all day.