September 19th, 2009
Bear with me as I go back in time and remember.
I was a young girl in the 1960s – yes, its true – and yet there are so many memories of people and events that happened during that time that are ingrained in my being even if I didn’t understand them and their effects until many years later. There was, for example: John F. Kennedy elected as President of the United States and assassinated a few years later, the Vietnam War, protest marches, Martin Luther King delivered his famous “I have a Dream” speech and assassinated, Nelson Mandela jailed for life, apartheid, Woodstock, the hippie movement, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Apollo 11 and the landing of the first man on the moon, Che Guevara, and in New Zealand television transmission began. Then there was the personal stuff like my youngest sister being born, the only grandfather I was ever lucky enough to be able to get to know died, and the only grandmother I ever knew left us to go back and live in Croatia. The 1960s were big years for the whole world, and for me personally.
Peter Yarrow, Noel Paul Stookey and Mary Travers made their debut in 1961 at the Bitter End in Greenwich Village. On the strength of this performance, they were signed to a recording contract with Warner Brothers. Released in May 1962, their first eponymously titled album included their rendition of Pete Seeger’s song, “If I Had a Hammer,” a hit that was the first record to bring protest music to a mainstream audience. Eighteen months later their version of “Blowin’ in the Wind” became a hit, and the first commercially successful recording of a song written by Bob Dylan.
As their fame grew, Peter, Paul and Mary mixed music with political and social activism. In 1963 the trio marched with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Ala., and Washington, D.C. The three participated in countless demonstrations against the war in Vietnam. And they sang at the 1969 March on Washington, which Mr. Yarrow helped to organize.
Source: Peter, Paul and Mary, New York Times , Times Topics, 18 September 2009
“Mary who?” many would say. When you start to list the songs it becomes a different situation, you can see the lights come on.
As I read about Mary’s life in the New York Times tribute it was interesting to read about Peter, Paul and Mary’s political messages in their music being considered risky for a group courting a mass audience. If we think of what they did in today’s terms risky would not be a word that even entered our mindset. Yet even today their messages ring true. They are as powerful as they ever were. Only last year I saw a video promoting Obama’s messages set to “If I had a hammer”. Mary Travers was committed to supporting the civil-rights and antiwar movements in her lifetime. I admire her passion, her determination to live true to her beliefs and values, and her beautiful voice.
I’ve had a great sing-a-long this morning as I have gone on this visit down memory lane. I hope you enjoy the memories too.
We have come through incredible, transformational times and grown as a result. Not all of the changes have been good. I am choosing not to focus on these at the moment. Let’s remember how people that have gone before us have helped shape the lives we live today. We are better because of them in some way no matter how small.
Thank you Mary.
And in honour of my girls and those special times we shared as we sat together watching “Dirty Dancing”, thank you Patrick.