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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Vale Mary Travers

When I was growing up in the 1960s, my friend Denise got a guitar and a songbook. We spent sunny Saturday afternoons at her home singing from it. Sometimes we sang from it at my place. There was a time when the noisy rock band playing loudly in the next flat drove us nuts. We'd had enough and decided that we'd show them who really knew how to be loud! Leaning out of the window, we sang Peter, Paul and Mary songs at the top of our teenage voices. The rehearsal ended soon after, when calling "Shut up!" didn't deter us and with great glee we watched the musicians stomp off, shaking fists at us.

I had a record I played over and over, Peter, Paul and Mary's In The Wind, then bought others when I could. I have always loved folk music, but it would be years before I discovered the likes of Pentangle and Steeleye Span and others. For me, anyway, Bob Dylan at the time was known through Peter, Paul and Mary. Whoever I discovered later, it was they who made me love the genre. Denise and I sang "Go Tell It On The Mountain" for our Grade 6 end-of-year concert, even before she got her guitar.

Later, when I was on a trip to Israel, a few of us hitched a ride up a mountain to a kibbutz and were discussing our favourite singers when the people giving us a lift joined in the discussion - they, too, were fans.

Then, years after the group split, they did a reunion tour to Australia. Of course, I went to hear them at the Concert Hall, worried I might be disappointed. I wasn't. It was as if time had stood still.

It hadn't, of course. After intermission, each of the singers had a solo spot, speaking as well as singing. Mary Travers reported gleefully how she had embarrassed her somewhat stuffy son-in-law when she was arrested on a protest march. I loved the fact that she had grown old disgracefully, as I hope to do one day...

She had the voice of an angel, one which moved me, whatever she sang. Since then, there have been others - Maddy Prior, Joan Baez, Jacqui McShee, Eliza Carthy - many others! But for me, she was the first. Reading about her passing saddened me deeply.

Rest peacefully, Mary.

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