Mary Travers, of the folk trio, Peter, Paul, and Mary passed away from leukemia on September 16, 2009. They were one of the most famous folk groups that began in 1961. They were elected into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, located in Sharon, PA in 1999. The group was famous for their renditions of popular songs of the era. Here are five favorite songs in tribute to Mary Travers.
Puff The Magic Dragon (1962)
This song was based off a poem by Leonard Lipton and friend of Peter Yarrow. It quickly rose to the #2 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 in 1963. It is about an ageless dragon who befriends a young boy who goes on to grow up and leave his imaginary friend in a mystical land called “Honalee”. The song has often been linked to containing drug references, which the band denied as being ridiculous. Recently, controversy has arisen from the song, renaming the words, “Barack, The Magic Negro”, which has been played on the Rush Limbaugh talk radio show and was distributed at Christmas of 2008, by Chip Saltsman, Republican National Committee chairman candidate. Composer Peter Yarrow condemned the act as “shocking and saddening in the extreme,” stating that “taking a children’s song and twisting it in such vulgar, mean-spirited way, is a slur to our entire country and our common agreement to move beyond racism. . . . Puff, himself, if asked, would certainly agree.”
Blowin’ In The Wind (1962)
Written by Bob Dylan for his Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan album, this song was made world famous by Peter, Paul, and Mary in 1963. According to Alan Lomax, the famed folk historian, the song’s melody originated in Canada and is called, “No More Auction Block”, a song British slaves used to sing after Britain outlawed slavery in 1833. It became an anthem of the 1960s Civil Rights movement and has been sung by many artists.
If I Had A Hammer (1949)
This is a song by Mary Traver’s friend, Pete Seeger and recorded by the Weavers – the folk group that originally inspired Mary to sing professionally. While it had very limited success when it was released as a protest song in the late 1940s, Peter, Paul and Mary had great response to the song when they revived the song in 1963. The song would be covered by dozens of artists during the Civil Rights movement and would be referred to in Hank Aaron’s autobiography, “I Had A Hammer”.
Leavin’ On A Jet Plane (1967)
This song, written by John Denver, was originally sung by the Mitchell Trio for whom Denver was a member. It had very little success until Peter, Paul, and Mary sang it in 1969. The song would reach #1 on the Billboard’s Top 100 (their only #1 song) and would be Peter, Paul and Mary’s biggest and last commercial hit. The song has been covered by such diverse singers as Frank Sinatra and the punk band, Sloppy Seconds.
Where Have All The Flowers Gone? (1961)
Another song by Pete Seeger, this sorrowful ballad is taken from a Latin medieval poem, known as an “Ubi Sunt” (literally, Where Are…), the song refers to nostalgia and death. It was later recorded by famous folk performers such as: The Kingston Trio, Harry Belafonte, Joan Baez, and of course, Peter, Paul, and Mary.