September 16, 2009 – Mary Allin Travers was born in Louisville, Kentucky on November 9th 1936, but at the age of 2, her family moved to Greenwich Village in New York City, where she attended the Little Red School House, she left school in the eleventh grade to pursue her singing career.
But while still in high school, she joined The Song Swappers, a group who sang backup for Pete Seeger when he recorded the album Talking Union, in 1955. The Song Swappers recorded a total of four albums in 1955, all with with Peter Seeger. Mary was also cast in the Broadway-theatre show, The Next President.
Unlike most folk musicians who were a part of that early 1960s Greenwich Village music scene, Mary actually grew up there. The group Peter, Paul and Mary which included Mary, Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey was formed in 1961 by their manager, Albert Grossman, who was wanting to form a super-folk group. Their 1962 debut album, Peter, Paul and Mary, included the hits “500 Miles”, “Lemon Tree”, and the Pete Seeger hit songs “If I Had a Hammer” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”. The album was listed in the Billboard Magazine Top Ten for 10 months, including 7 weeks at No.1. Their version of “If I Had a Hammer” soon became an anthem for racial equality. They released 12 albums and had 17 hit singles including “Puff (The Magic Dragon)”, “Blowin’ in the Wind”, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”, “I Dig Rock and Roll Music”, “Day is Done” and “Leaving on a Jet Plane”.
They were early champions of Bob Dylan and their recording of “Blowin’ in the Wind”, helped spur Bob into the limelight. In 1963 they took part in the 500,000-strong march on Washington organized by Dr. Martin Luther King, and two years later, in dangerous circumstances, they campaigned for racial equality in Selma, Alabama. They performed 200 concerts a year, often for charitable or political causes.
The group broke up in 1970, and Mary pursued a solo career recording five albums: Mary in 1971, Morning Glory in 1972, All My Choices in 1973, Circles in 1974 and It’s in Everyone of Us in 1978. After which, that same year, Peter Paul and Mary re-formed. They reunited for a concert to protest nuclear energy, and continued to record albums together and tour, playing around 45 shows a year.
They remained politically active as well, performing at the 1995 anniversary of the Kent State shootings and performing for California strawberry pickers.The group collected five Grammy awards, inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999 and received the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award from Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2006. Sadly in 2005, Mary was diagnosed with leukemia which took her life on September 16, 2009 at the age of 72.