Noel Paul Stookey, a longtime Blue Hill resident and a member 1960s iconic folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary, remembers his late band mate, Mary Travers, as an outspoken, dynamic person.
“I seldom heard her say she was sorry, yet she often displayed an immense generosity that would surprise even herself,” Stookey said in a statement posted on the group’s Web site, www.peterpaulandmary.com. “I am deadened and heartsick beyond words to consider a life without Mary Travers, and honored beyond my wildest dreams to have shared her spirit and her career.”
Travers died Wednesday at the age of 72 after a long battle with leukemia.
In his statement, Stookey described the often-tumultuous relationship he had with Travers, as a creative partner, performing partner, activist and friend.
“As a partner … she could be vexing and vulnerable in the same breath. As a friend she shared her concerns freely and without reservation,” he said. “As an activist, she was brave, outspoken and inspiring — especially in her defense of the defenseless. And, as a performer, her charisma was a barely contained nervous energy — occasionally (and then only privately) revealed as stage fright.”
Stookey last performed in Maine with both Travers and the trio’s other member, Peter Yarrow, in 1996 at a reunion performance at the Maine Center for the Arts in Orono. In 1993, the trio performed a benefit concert at WERU-FM’s Full Circle Fair in Blue Hill.
Travers, with her powerful voice and long blond hair, was, as a member of Peter, Paul and Mary, one of defining figures in the New York folk music scene of the 1960s. She lived most of her life in New York and Connecticut, growing up in and around the Greenwich Village folk scene, before meeting up with Yarrow and Stookey in 1960. She was an outspoken supporter of the civil rights movement, and her group’s recordings, such as “If I Had a Hammer” and “Blowin’ In the Wind,” Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan songs, respectively, became permanently associated with the early 1960s.
Yarrow also released a statement on the group’s Web site He spoke of Travers’ bravery in dealing with her illness, and the honesty with which she led her life, especially in her final months.
“Her love for me and Noel Paul, and for [her husband] Ethan, poured out with great dignity and without restraint. It was, as Mary always was, honest and completely authentic,” said Yarrow. “That’s the way she sang, too; honestly and with complete authenticity. I believe that, in the most profound of ways, Mary was incapable of lying, as a person, and as an artist. That took great courage, and Mary was always equal to the task.”
A statement released jointly by both Stookey and Yarrow detailed her role as an icon of 20th century American music, and her tireless support of the causes she believed in.
“She was a passionate singer of songs, songs that have enlightened us and moved us to action as citizens of America and the world,” read the statement. “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 power-less, the infirm, the poor.”
The statement went on to describe her impact on her fans and on American culture in general.
“Mary never shrank before a threat to her person if it got in the way of pursuing her deeply held convictions, and she was as loyal on behalf of her friends as she was to her principles,” it continued. “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.”