Thursday, September 17, 2009

Goodnight, Sweet Songbird of Peace

by Pa Rock

Mary Travers died yesterday, and with her passing something much greater than one individual has slipped into the whispering echoes of history. Mary Travers was a singer, a sweet songbird of peace who was the sparkle and soul of the folk singing phenomenon of the 1960’s: Peter, Paul, and Mary. With Mary gone, the trio that was so much a part of American culture and counter-culture has also passed. An era has slipped away.

The songs of Peter, Paul, and Mary form a soundtrack of America across some of the most socially turbulent years of the twentieth century. Much of their music was geared toward peaceful protest, but even militaristic sorts could smile and sing along with “If I had a Hammer,” “Puff the Magic Dragon,” and “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” And for sheer poetic strength in music and lyrics, there are few collections that can compare to “Album 1700,” a classic in every sense of the word.

The sixties are quietly disappearing, blowing in the wind. Those of us who were fortunate enough to come of age during those exciting times are graying now and beginning to slip off of the great mandala - the wheel of life. But the mandala keeps on turning, and new causes come around, and other fierce youth will climb on board and take up the struggles.

The world today is a much better place than when Peter Yarrow, Paul Stookey, and Mary Travers took the stage to sing down war, marched with Martin Luther King to end segregation and violence, and lent their fame and talents to a myriad of other social causes like bringing an end to nuclear arms and promoting the fair treatment of farm workers. The world is better, but there is so much left to do. Young hands will take up the struggle for social justice, and new voices will sing them onward.

Thank you for the beautiful music, Mary. Rest in peace.

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