Thursday, September 17, 2009

In Search of...the end of an era

One really doesn't have to look far these days to find the end of an era. It seems like every day another celebrity or public figure passes, leaving this world a little more void not only of their art but of their spirit as well. The media loves the big headliners like Michael Jackson, but to those of us who have different frames of reference what constitutes a headliner varies. I say this because Mary Travers of Peter Paul & Mary died and her death barely garnered the crawl on the bottom of the CNN news screen.

We've all joked about folk songs, but the truth is that there is hardly an American who has not sung This Land is Your Land or If I Had a Hammer at least once in their lives. And for those of us who learned to strum a guitar to the three chord Leaving on a Jet Plane or Blowin' in the Wind, Peter Paul & Mary are indelibly etched in our psyches.

While I believe that Peter, Paul & Mary are best known as the voice of a specific older generation, it is important to note that they never stopped letting their songs speak to all generations spanning fifty years. If folk music was the anthem for a particular political movement, then that movement never ceased, nor did their personal activism on behalf of causes both popular and unpopular.

Mary Travers death is not just a musical loss, it is a loss for those oppressed worldwide for whom she fought so vocally. Whether it was playing an active role in Washington's Center for the Development of International Policy, going on missions to El Salvador and Nicaragua, fighting for a woman's right to choose, or demonstrating in support of the Anti-Apartheid Movement, Mary Travers never stopped being an outspoken advocate for people who had none. So it is in that capacity that I feel the world has truly suffered a great loss.

To those of us who will miss both the voice and the activist , I leave you with the haunting Laura Nyro lyric that Peter Paul & Mary recorded in 1966 -

"And when I die, and when I'm gone
There'll be one child born, and a world to carry on."

Thanks for stopping by, and rest in peace, Mary Travers.

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