Over the years, the Bob Dylan song Blowin’ In The Wind would become the anthem of the civil rights movement and be recorded by literally hundreds of artists. But it was Peter, Paul and Mary who carried it to the world.
Put together by manager Albert Grossman (who also looked after Dylan) and led by the soulful Mary Travers, they had already put protest music into the charts with a version of Pete Seeger‘s If I Had A Hammer, but they were able to balance their commercial success with their espousal of worthy causes.
Puff The Magic Dragon came dangerously close to #1 despite airplay restrictions on the ridiculous premise that the lyrics referred to marijuana!
In August 1963 their performance of Blowin’ In The Wind to an army of black freedom marchers in Washington who had just heard Martin Luther King deliver his “I have a dream” speech was the high point of their career.
Taken from their 1967 album titled, Album 1700 that was considered a landmark release for the trio, I Dig Rock And Roll Music was released as a single and was an affectionate send-up of the music of the flower power era.
Leaving On A Jet Plane, though their biggest global hit, was to be their TOP 40 farewell.
The group disbanded in 1970. In the same year, Peter Yarrow pleaded guilty to “taking immoral liberties” with a 14-year-old girl. He was issued with a pardon by President Carter eleven years later.
That Autumn, Travers released the first of five solo albums. Attracting more notice, however, would be her hosting of a television chat show, with Bob Dylan her most renowned interviewee, and reunions of Peter, Paul and Mary for charity and nuclear disarmament events, before permanent reformation in 1983.
Induction into the US Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999 mitigated to some extent Travers’ dismay when an extended link-up with Dylan for Live Aid had fallen through after he chose instead to be accompanied by two Rolling Stones.
In 2005, Mary was diagnosed with leukaemia and, though obliged to take the stage in a wheelchair, there was no noticeable effect on her strong, clear soprano until complications arising from chemotherapy prompted gradually less participation in the act, and led to her death at the age of 72 on 16 September 2009, at Danbury Hospital in Connecticut.
Mary Allin Travers
Noel Paul Stookey