Mary Travers

For other uses, see Mary Travers (disambiguation).
Mary Travers

Travers (right) as part of Peter, Paul and Mary
Background information
Birth name Mary Allin Travers
Born (1936-11-09)November 9, 1936
Louisville, Kentucky
Died September 16, 2009(2009-09-16) (aged 72)
Danbury, Connecticut
Genres Folk, pop[1]
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1961–2009
Labels Warner Bros., Chrysalis
Associated acts Peter, Paul and Mary, Joni Mitchell, Mama Cass, John Denver

Mary Allin Travers (November 9, 1936 – September 16, 2009) was an American singer-songwriter and member of the folk music group Peter, Paul and Mary, along with Peter Yarrow and (Noel) Paul Stookey. Peter, Paul and Mary was one of the most successful folk-singing groups of the 1960s.[2] Unlike most folk musicians of the early 1960s who were a part of the burgeoning music scene in the Village, Travers grew up there.[2]

Early life and education

Mary Travers was born in Louisville, Kentucky, to Robert Travers and Virginia Coigney, both journalists and active organizers of The Newspaper Guild, a trade union.[3] In 1938, the family moved to Greenwich Village in New York City. Mary attended the progressive Little Red School House, where she met musical icons like Pete Seeger and Paul Robeson. The latter sang her lullabies. Mary did not graduate; she left in the 11th grade to become a member of the Song Swappers folk group.[3] [4]

Singing career

Main article: Peter, Paul & Mary

The Song Swappers sang backup for Pete Seeger on four reissue albums in 1955, when Folkways Records reissued a collection of Seeger's pro-union folk songs, "Talking Union". Travers regarded her singing as a hobby and was shy about it, but was encouraged by fellow musicians.[2] She also was in the cast of the Broadway show The Next President.[5]

The group Peter, Paul and Mary was formed in 1961, and was an immediate success. They shared a manager, Albert Grossman, with Bob Dylan. Their success with Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" helped propel Dylan's Freewheelin' album into the U.S. Top 30 four months after its release.[6][7]

An Associated Press obituary noted:[8]

The group's first album [Peter, Paul and Mary] came out in 1962 and immediately scored hits with their versions of "If I Had a Hammer" and "Lemon Tree". The former won them Grammys for best folk recording and best performance by a vocal group.

Their next album, Moving, included the hit tale of innocence lost, "Puff, The Magic Dragon", which reached No. 2 on the [U.S.] charts ...

The trio's third album, In the Wind, featured three songs by the 22-year-old Bob Dylan. "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" and "Blowin' in the Wind" reached the [U.S.] top 10, bringing Dylan's material to a massive audience; the latter shipped 300,000 copies during one two-week period.

At one point in 1963, three of their albums were in the top six Billboard best-selling LPs [in the U.S.] as they became the biggest stars of the folk revival movement.

Their version of [Pete Seeger's] "If I Had a Hammer" became an anthem for racial equality, as did Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind", which they performed at the August 1963 March on Washington.

The group broke up in 1970, shortly after having their biggest U.K. hit, singer/songwriter John Denver's iconic ballad Leaving on a Jet 'Plane (originally titled "Babe I Hate To Go") (U.K. No. 2, February 1970), which also made No. 1 on both the U.S. Billboard and Cash Box charts in December 1969, the only single to hit number one for the group. Travers subsequently pursued a solo career and recorded five albums: Mary (1971), Morning Glory (1972), All My Choices (1973), Circles (1974) and It's in Everyone of Us (1978).[2] The group re-formed in 1978, toured extensively and issued many new albums. The group was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999.

Personal life

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. In 1991, she married restaurateur Ethan Robbins, with whom she lived in the small town of Redding, Connecticut, for the remainder of her life.[2][9]


In 2004 Travers was diagnosed with leukemia.[10] A bone marrow transplant in 2005 induced a temporary remission, but she died on September 16, 2009, at Danbury Hospital in Connecticut, from complications related to the marrow transplant and other treatments. She was 72 years old. In addition to her husband, survivors included daughters Erika and Alicia; her sister, the educator and psychologist Ann Gordon; and two granddaughters.[2] She was buried at Umpawaug Cemetery in Redding, CT.[11]


A memorial service for Travers was held on November 9, 2009 at Riverside Church In New York City. The four-hour service, on the seventy-third anniversary of her birth, was attended by a capacity crowd. Two of the many reflections shared at the service speak to the impact of Mary Travers's work and the significance of her legacy. Feminist Gloria Steinem commented that with her poise and conviction as a performer, Ms. Travers "seemed to us to be a free woman, and that helped us to be free." Folk singer and co-founder of the Newport Folk Festival Theodore Bikel mused on her roles as political activist and glamorous pop-music touchstone:[12]

There were other people besides Mary who taught us that dissent was right and dissent was just, but only Mary taught us that dissent was also beautiful.

Solo discography

See also


  1. Harris, Craig; Eder, Bruce. "Biography of Mary Travers". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-10-10.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Grimes, William (September 16, 2009). "Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary Dies at 72". The New York Times. Retrieved September 17, 2009.
  3. 1 2 Harris, Kathryn (September 17, 2009). "Mary Travers of Folk Music Trio Peter, Paul & Mary Dies at 72". Bloomberg News. Retrieved September 17, 2009.
  4. Browne, David (September 17, 2009). "Mary Travers (1936–2009)". Rolling Stone. Retrieved July 21, 2016.
  5. Lindsay, Jay (September 16, 2009). "Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary Dead at 72". San Francisco Chronicle. Associated Press. Archived from the original on September 22, 2009. Retrieved September 17, 2009.
  6. "Folk singer Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary has died, aged 72". The Times. News International. September 17, 2009. Retrieved September 18, 2009.
  7. "Mary Travers: folk singer". The Times. News International. September 18, 2009. Retrieved September 18, 2009.
  8. "Mary Travers, 72: Singer Helped Launch Folk Revival With Peter, Paul and Mary". The Washington Post. Associated Press. September 17, 2009. Retrieved September 17, 2009.
  9. Harris, Kathryn (September 17, 2009). "Mary Travers of Folk Music Trio Peter, Paul & Mary Dies at 72". Archived from the original on October 25, 2012. Retrieved September 17, 2009.
  10. Keen, Judy (August 28, 2006). "Travers sings praises of her bone marrow donor". USA Today. Retrieved March 4, 2012.
  12. "Mary Travers Is Praised for Her Voice and Words". New York Times. Retrieved November 21, 2015.
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