Saturday, September 26, 2009

All the Flowers Have Gone - A Personal Tribute to Mary Travers

By Karen Haney

Tonight I ask, where have all the flowers really gone? Mary Travers, of Peter, Paul and Mary passed away Wednesday night, at the age of 72, from leukemia at a hospital in Danbury, Connecticut.

An American treasure, an icon, a idol to my generation - Mary was the female singer-songwriter of the trio Peter, Paul and Mary, along with her male counterparts Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey. They began in 1961 at The Bitter End ( for those of you who don't recognize the name, this is a popular folk music spot in New York City's Greenwich Village).

The group was the inspiration of manager Albert Grossman, who was looking to create a folk-song super group, while he also managed the chart topper, Bob Dylan. Grossman's idea certainly was a good one as Peter, Paul, and Mary came to symbolize folk music in America for so many of us in the 1960's and from then on.

The trio became one of the most successful folk music groups, singing classics like "500 Miles", "Leaving on a Jet Plane," "Blowin' in the Wind" and "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" They also performed the epic song of an era and a cause "If I Had a Hammer" at the 1963 March on Washington, DC, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s I Have a Dream speech was delivered. Peter, Paul and Mary also won five Grammys and had 13 Top 40 hits.

Their songs crossed generations. "Puff, the Magic Dragon" often said to have veiled messages about drugs and marijuana, they admitted long ago what it really was about...A DRAGON! And children know and cherish this song to this day.

To me, Peter, Paul and Mary were my college years' anthem. As college students, torn between preppy fraternities/sororities and burning our bras/draft cards, we lived for their music and the beads around our necks. After seeing them live on campus at Florida State University during my freshman year in the mid-sixties, we walked home to our dorms and gathered in stairwells with our guitars as we often did.

The stairwell had groovy echoes that allowed our voices to sound so much better - especially for me on the top floor, needing all the help I could get! That night, however, as we strummed, picked, and sang about dragons, flowers, and hammers, little did we know that Mary had been rushed to our modest infirmary.

The campus grapevine worked mysteriously however, so we quickly found out, and rushed there to gather with candles and hold our breath waiting for word. Mary had collapsed from exhaustion was the report we were given, but the rumor alleged (and I say RUMOR) that she had had a miscarriage.

Their music and Mary's singing in particular peppered my life on into my early adult hood. Traveling after college to Canada with my best friend, my cousin, and his best friend, it was PP&M or John Denver on the 8 track!!! This was a high flying joyful trip - take it for whatever you wish it to mean - to me that trip was unadulterated bliss!

Little did I know then that I would lose not only that best friend but also my cousin both to brain cancer all within these past few months. So it is almost not surprising or astonishing in some ways to me that Mary Travers has now died of cancer and lost to all of us as well. Not surprising, but oh so heartbreaking.

Tonight, I will probably dust off my old guitar to pluck away at what John Denver taught me in his rendition of "This Old Guitar" that:

"This old guitar taught me to sing a love song

It showed me how to laugh and how to cry

It introduced me to some friends of mine

And brightened up some days

It helped me make it through some lonely nights,

Oh, what a friend to have on a cold and lonely night"

John Denver, also gone now, made a hit some years later of Peter, Paul and Mary's 'Leaving On a Jet Plane", one of my favorites.

The words say so much to many but especially to me and especially tonight. My guitar and the music associated with it- the music of Denver, and Joan Baez, but mostly Peter, Paul, and Mary spoke to me in those years and in years since and until this very day. Their music taught me how "to laugh and how to cry". And tonight I cry. I cry for a loss of a great lady who meant so much to so many. But I also know her music will live on and that has to bring us all some peace as peace is what Mary advocated all her life and would want that to be her legacy.

I hope you get pleasure from a couple of Peter, Paul, and Mary's songs....and my favorites! Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts and if you have some time, listen to some of this wondrous music, you'll be glad you did.

And I will leave you with the words Mary sang in "Leaving On a Jet Plane"

"Now the time has come to leave you

One more time let me kiss you

Then close your eyes, Ill be on my way.

Dream about the days to come"


Karen D. Haney, Author/Developer of BOOKIN' WITH BINGO (, reviews books and interviews authors for her book blog. Reading and writing are her passion.

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1 comment:

  1. you wrote: "John Denver, also gone now, made a hit some years later of Peter, Paul and Mary's 'Leaving On a Jet Plane", one of my favorites."

    Actually Leavin' on a Jet Plane wasn't PP&M's, it was written by John Denver. They had a hit with his song.