Posted by: guinness222 | September 19, 2009

“One Man’s memory of Mary Travers, RIP!”

    I am in my mid 60’s, which put me at about 20 years old as the Viet Nam War unfolded. It was a completely insane war, started by John F. Kennedy to support a “democratic dictator”, and more than fueled by his successor, Lyndon Johnson.

    As it first opened it was a “policing” action we engaged in, and in a short time it escalated into a complete war. It was perhaps the third most devisive event in this country’s history. (The American Revolution of the 1770’s being #1, the United States Civil War of 1861 – 1865  being Number 2, and the Viet Nam “Conflict” (1963 – 2005) being third. (Closely followed by our current state of internal turmoil since the 2008 election, or was that an “Anointing”?) The American people for the very first time were exposed to the raw, dirty, terrible sight of war every night on the TV’s, live and in color. Military caskets bearing U.S. Servicemen in them, by the thousands, insane military Generals all trying to improve “body count” (theirs or ours, I’m still not to sure), illegal covert actions into surrounding countries, but by and large losing at every turn. Losing because the Viet Nam war was not necessarily a “typical”military war with platoons at the ready, artillery steadily advancing across the open field making cannon fodder of “the enemy”, but as I have so often preached, ” Those who fail to study history are damned to repeat it.” (If anyone knows exactly who said that let me know please.)

         But it was the American Revolution all over again, …a guerilla war of epic proportions only the uniforms were reversed. We were now the “Red-Coats” with the total military being and tactics, while the Viet Cong were the Revolutionary Americans, strike and disappear into the jungle, move somewhere else, strike and move again. Don’t wait for a numerically superior and equipment bearing giant to come and step on you, wage war like a bee, sting, move on, sting again, etc.

       The American people apparently studied their history, because they knew it was a “no win situation”, and that we had to cut our losses and eat a little crow and end it. But the politicians did not,….so it raged on for years. Sentiment grew in America, protests abounded (1968 Democratic Convention), people were arrested (the Chicago 7), and people, non-combatant common American Citizens were killed, (Kent State University) . But as always it fell to the “artists” of our great land to put the resistance together, to make it gel, and to make it make a difference.

       In the early 60’s there was a musical backlash going on as well. The “sinful and evil” Rock and Roll with such heathens as Jerry Lee Lewis, and a new kid from Tupelo Mississippi named “Elvis Presley” gyrating obscenely and inspiring “sinful sexual thoughts” were running up against an “older than the hills” form of American Music called “folk” music, with the likes of Woody Guthrie, Joan Baez, and a new group cobbled together in the Greenwich Village section of New York City, (then a “hippy, and poet” section of low cost run down apartments and coffee houses catering to the itinerant musicians and poets)  It was composed of Peter Yarrow, Paul Stookey, and Mary Travers.

       The rest is history, Peter, Paul and Mary were born. They became a light in the darkness, for peace, social justice, and right. If they cut a record it went platinum overnight! (And you could understand all the words, listen to genuine musicianship and harmonies, and find a real sense of literary expertise in the crafting of what they sang, for example “Puff the Magic Dragon”, and “Light One Candle”.)

         As the war grew so did their opposition to it. I was in the military, U.S. Navy to be precise,  and was sworn to “protect support and defend” my country. But always having been a little “crazy” I fell in love with the entire folk music era and movement. So every time I could find one I would go to a “Hootenany” which was  a local folk music jam session. My late Aunt Betty, in West Palm Beach, used to have all kinds of folks over and they would play tunes most of the night, do a fish fry and just talk and teach each other tunes and chords, and harmonies. By the time I got out of the military in 1969 the entire country had acknowledged it was a stalemate quagmire of immeasurable proportions. A new President had been elected, Richard M. Nixon, and the “Protest Movement” was enormous and more than compelling on Washington.

       In late 1969, 0r early 1970, there was a massive march to Washington D.C. of millions of average Joe Citizens, oppressed minorities, and ethical pundits who all bonded together. There was a big concert on Saturday evening of that weekend on the Washington Mall, the very same place Obama used to have his inauguration. One of the groups playing there that evening was Peter, Paul, and Mary, and they raised things to an even higher level of awareness with their music.

        Protest had become “fashionable” by this time, and the old “gatherings” and initial beginnings had moved to the mainstream. The day after the huge Washington “Peace Rally”, Peter , Paul, and Mary were booked to play in the world renown Boston Symphony Hall. At the time my oldest boy was only 1 1/2 years old, and if memory serves me (which it some times does not) my wife was pregnant with our second child, but I got tickets to it at an outrageous cost for those days (my gross Salary per week was $99.00 at the time, that I remember) and we went.

        It was a musical, emotional, and spiritually uplifting event, in large part because of Mary Travers ability to make her voice reach into your chest and pull every heartstring you had. Coming off of playing for in excess of 1 Million people the night before they were emotionally “up” and overwhelming for three singers with two acoustic guitars! I was a huge fan, later on I bought an old guitar and started learning to play, what else but “Peter,Paul, and Mary” tunes. They have always and will always be my favorite group of all time, that I can guarantee you. In fact after I finish this I will be reorganizing my iPod and guess what’s going on it?

        Over the years, since then, the group comes out of retirement and occasionally gets together and does a concert. Age has caught up, voices are less strong than the emotionally power packed sounds that emanated in the 60’s as they sang, but they were still the reminder of the era and the emotion we were capable of to right wrongs, and accomplish the impossible. They have been a factor in my life and I thank, Peter Yarrow, Paul Stookey, and Mary Travers for all they gave us.

        Mary Travers passed away this past week. She was 72 and had been fighting leukemia for a long time. God Bless Mary, a safe Journey to a land where all is right all the time and music is everywhere.

       With that all having been said, I will try and close with something to let you see and hear what Mary was all about. Peace and enjoy!

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      And from Washington DC April 24th, 1971

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Responses

  1. When I was little I would watch Peter Paul and Mary perform on PBS just to hear Puff the Magic Dragon. My Dad bought me a Puff the Magic Dragon stuffed animal that forever became my best friend. When I heard she passed away the other day I got online and bought my kids their own Puffs. As a kid I liked that their songs were stories.


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