At their peak in the early 1960s, Peter Yarrow, Noel “Paul” Stookey and Mary Travers were affectionately referred to as “Two Beards and a Blonde,” but everyone knew Peter, Paul and Mary as the socially active, soft-singing, guitar-strumming trio behind such folk hits as “If I Had a Hammer,” “Lemon Tree,” “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Leaving on a Jet Plane” and “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” among others.
Now, the blonde is gone. Mary Travers, 72, died Wednesday in a Connecticut hospital after a long battle with leukemia.
With songs that existed on several levels – “If I Had a Hammer” and “Blowin’ in the Wind” were interpreted as pleas for racial equality – Peter, Paul and Mary brought beatniks into the mainstream and helped spread a message of peace and harmony. Their music also brought them five Grammys, 13 Top-40 hits (six of them in the Top 10), and eight gold and five platinum albums.
In a message posted on her Web site, “family, friends and loving associates” of Travers and her former bandmates delivered the following message, which reads in part:
“Mary Travers fought cancer and its consequent illnesses with an inspiring strength and determination, maintaining a positive outlook and uncomplaining spirit throughout. Mary’s life and legacy remain a great American treasure. She was a passionate singer of songs, songs that have enlightened us and moved us to action as citizens of America and the world. She never failed to champion those most in need, those most deprived of their rights as citizens and human beings, and those targeted by racism and discrimination; the powerless, the infirm, the poor Mary helped awaken mainstream America to the humanizing message of folk music. She reached millions of people in the struggle to guarantee social justice for all and has left a profound and lasting impact on all of us. Each of us, many in profoundly personal ways, will deeply miss her and the gifts she has given us – as an artist, as a triumphant role model, and as a dear, beloved friend.”
Kentucky-born and Greenwich Village-raised, Travers was a longtime resident of Redding, Conn. Her husband, Ethan Robbins; daughters, Alicia and Erika; sister Ann Gordon, Ph.D,; and granddaughters, Wylie and Virginia, survive her.