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Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary

Matt Schudel

Mary Travers, of Peter, Paul and Mary fame, has died at the age of 72. We didn't hear about her until about 9 p.m. Wednesday, when the obits staff had already gone home to rest after several onerous days of work -- we've had a ton of major obits in the past week -- so that's why the Post ended up going with the Associated Press obituary on Travers.

A lot of people are familiar with "Puff the Magic Dragon," which was a big hit for PP&M in 1963, but I suspect younger readers might not have a clue of how popular the folk trio was in its heyday. Peter Yarrow, Paul Stookey and Mary Travers constituted, in many ways, the ultimate 1960s musical group.

It wasn't just that Peter, Paul and Mary were enormously popular, but they were really the first counterculture figures to reach that level of public acceptance and fame. Their voices blended in perfect harmony, and let's face it, Mary Travers, with her straight blond hair and her tight-fitting dresses brought some sex appeal a genre of music that has always been long on sober earnestness.

PP&M were beatniks -- the men had goatees, after all -- who emerged from the New York coffeehouse and folkie scene, and their lyrics often had a not-so-veiled political message. (Of course, there's always been the rumor that "Puff the Magic Dragon" was about smoking marijuana -- but, honestly, other than the word "puff," it's not much more than a sweet children's fairy tale.)

Peter, Paul and Mary had so many other huge hits througout the '60s that it's easy to forget how many great and famous songs they made popular. Here's a Japanese video of performance of "If I Had a Hammer":

Peter, Paul and Mary had hits with Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind", "The Times, They Are a-Changin'" and "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" and with John Denver's wistful "Leaving on a Jet Plane" (with Mary singing the lead in a fairly recent video).

Something about "Jet Plane" has always brought a lump to my throat, and for those of us of a certain age, Peter, Paul and Mary represent the spirit of the '60s like no other group.

By Matt Schudel |  September 17, 2009; 1:15 PM ET  | Category:  Matt Schudel
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