Thursday, November 27, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Mary Travers, 72, member of the iconic 1960s folk trio

DANBURY, Conn. - Mary Travers, 72, one-third of the hugely popular 1960s folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary, died yesterday at Danbury Hospital. She had battled leukemia for several years.

Ms. Travers joined forces with Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey in the early '60s.

The trio mingled their music with liberal politics, both onstage and off. Their version of "If I Had a Hammer" became an anthem for racial equality. Other hits included "Lemon Tree," "Leaving on a Jet Plane," and "Puff (The Magic Dragon)."

They were early champions of Bob Dylan and performed his "Blowin' in the Wind" at the August 1963 March on Washington.

And they were vehement in their opposition to the Vietnam War, managing to stay true to their liberal beliefs while creating music that resonated in the mainstream.

The group collected five Grammy Awards.

At one point in 1963, three of their albums were among Billboard's top six best-sellers as they became the biggest stars of the folk revival movement.

It was heady stuff for a trio that had formed in the early 1960s in Greenwich Village, running through simple tunes like "Mary Had a Little Lamb."

They debuted at the Bitter End in 1961, and their beatnik look - a tall blonde flanked by a pair of goateed guitarists - was a part of their initial appeal.

Their debut album came out in 1962, and immediately scored a pair of hits with their versions of "If I Had a Hammer" and "Lemon Tree." The former won them Grammys for best folk recording and best performance by a vocal group.

In a 1966 New York Times interview, Ms. Travers said the three worked well together because they respected one another. "There has to be a certain amount of love just in order for you to survive together," she said.

With the advent of the Beatles and Dylan's switch to electric guitar, the folk boom disappeared. Ms. Travers expressed disdain for folk-rock, telling the Chicago Daily News in 1966 that "it's so badly written. . . . When the fad changed from folk to rock, they didn't take along any good writers."

But the trio continued their success, scoring with the tongue-in-cheek single "I Dig Rock and Roll Music," a gentle parody of the Mamas and the Papas, in 1967 and the John Denver-penned "Leaving on a Jet Plane" two years later.

In 1969, the trio earned their final Grammy for Peter, Paul and Mommy, which won for best children's album. They disbanded in 1971, launching solo careers - Ms. Travers released five albums - that never achieved the heights of their collaborations.

Over the years they enjoyed several reunions, including a performance at a 1978 antinuclear benefit organized by Yarrow and a 35th-anniversary album, Lifelines.

Ms. Travers' 1958 marriage, which ended in divorce, produced a daughter, Erika, in 1960.

In 1963, Ms. Travers married Barry Feinstein, a freelance photographer. The marriage produced Ms. Travers' second daughter, Alicia, in 1966, but ended in divorce.

A 1970s marriage to National Lampoon publisher Gerald Taylor also ended in divorce.

In 1991, she married restaurateur Ethan Robbins and settled into year-round residence in Redding, Conn.

In addition to her husband and daughters, survivors include a sister and two granddaughters.


This article contains information from Bloomberg News.

Associated Press
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