Mary Allin Travers, Singer-songwriter, Died at 72

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Dead, Mary Allin Travers on September 16, 2009 at the age of 72, she was an American singer-songwriter and member of the folk music group Peter, Paul and Mary, along with Peter Yarrow and (Noel) Paul Stookey.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky on November 9, 1936, to Robert Travers and Virginia Coigney, both journalists and active organizers for The Newspaper Guild, a trade union. In 1938, the family moved to Greenwich Village in New York City.

Travers was married four times. Her first brief union, to John Filler, produced her elder daughter, Erika, in 1960. In 1963 she married Barry Feinstein, a prominent freelance photographer of musicians and celebrities.

Her younger daughter, Alicia, was born in 1966, and the couple divorced the following year. In the 1970s she was married to Gerald Taylor, publisher of National Lampoon, after which Travers had a relationship for several years with former Watergate prosecutor Richard Ben-Veniste while raising her daughters in New York.

Ms. Travers brought a powerful voice and an unfeigned urgency to music that resonated with mainstream listeners. With her straight blond hair and willowy figure and two bearded guitar players by her side, she looked exactly like what she was, a Greenwich Villager directly from the clubs and the coffeehouses that nourished the folk-music revival.

Ms. Travers’s voice blended seamlessly with those of her colleagues, Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey, to create a rich three-part harmony that propelled the group to the top of the pop charts.

Their first album, “Peter, Paul and Mary,” which featured the hit singles “Lemon Tree” and “If I Had a Hammer,” reached No. 1 shortly after its release in March 1962 and stayed there for seven weeks, eventually selling more than two million copies.

Their sound may have been commercial and safe, but early on their politics were somewhat risky for a group courting a mass audience. Like Mr. Yarrow and Mr. Stookey, Ms. Travers was outspoken in her support for the civil-rights and antiwar movements, in sharp contrast to clean-cut folk groups like the Kingston Trio, which avoided making political statements.

Over the years they performed frequently at political rallies and demonstrations in the United States and abroad. After the group disbanded, in 1970, Ms. Travers continued to perform at political events around the world as she pursued a solo career.

After rehearsing for seven months, with the producer and arranger Milt Okun coaching them, Peter, Paul and Mary — Mr. Stookey adopted his middle name, Paul, because it sounded better — began performing in 1961 at Folk City and the Bitter End.

The next year they released their first album. Peter, Paul and Mary reunited to perform at a benefit to oppose nuclear power in 1978 and thereafter kept to a limited schedule of tours around the world. Many of their concerts benefited political causes.

“I was raised to believe that everybody has a responsibility to their community and I use the word very loosely,” Ms. Travers told The Times in 1999. “It’s a big community. If I get recognized in the middle of the Sinai Desert I have a big community.”


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