Mary Allin Travers (November 9, 1936 – September 16, 2009) was an American singer-songwriter and member of the folk, pop 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. Unlike most folk musicians who were a part of the early 1960s Greenwich Village music scene, Travers actually grew up in that New York City neighborhood.
Mary Travers was born in Louisville, Kentucky, to Robert Travers and Virginia Coigney, both journalists and active organizers for The Newspaper Guild, a trade union. In 1938, the family moved to Greenwich Village in New York City. Travers attended the Little Red School House there, but left in the 11th grade to pursue her singing career.
While in high school, Travers joined The Song Swappers, which sang backup for Pete Seeger when Folkways Records reissued a union song collection, Talking Union, in 1955. The Song Swappers recorded four albums for Folkways in 1955, all with Seeger. Travers regarded her singing as a hobby and was shy about it, but was encouraged by fellow musicians. She also was in the cast of the Broadway show The Next President.
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 Top 30 four months after its release.
An Associated press obituary noted:
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 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 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 as they became the biggest stars of the folk revival movement.
Their version of "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, and 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). 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.
Travers’s first three marriages ended in divorce. She is survived by her fourth husband, restaurateur Ethan Robbins (married 1991); two daughters, Erika Marshall (born 1960) of Naples, Florida, and Alicia Travers (born 1965) of Greenwich, Connecticut; half-brother John Travers; a sister, Ann Gordon, Ph.D. of Oakland, California; and two grandchildren. Travers lived in the small town of Redding, Connecticut.
In 2005, Travers was diagnosed with leukemia. Although a bone marrow transplant apparently slowed the progression of the disease, Travers died on September 16, 2009, at Danbury Hospital in Danbury, Connecticut, from complications arising from chemotherapy. She was 72 years old.
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