Mary Travers departs; connections remain

What blew into my lifeMy parents, one Christmas, gave me an album by Peter, Paul and Mary.  Ignoring the question of how Mom and Dad knew who these people were, I didn’t like Peter, Paul and Mary.

Or so I thought.

By the following year, I wanted a guitar.  And I guess I learned informally, because I didn’t take lessons, and I didn’t know anyone who knew guitar.  I had found Earl Robinson’s Folk Guitar in Ten Sessions, which was more about accompanying singing than fancy fingering.

So: listening to Yarrow, Stookey, and Travers pulled me into a web of songs.  Some were traditional, some were contemporary, but for me they related in a way that other kinds of music hadn’t.  Related in the sense of having a connection, and related in the sense of giving an account of things outside.

I started learning about other kinds of music, about the “folk process” through which tradition song gets transformed, about social relevance.  And I learned that making music was not something only professionals did, or only other people: making music was an invitation.

I don’t know if Mary played an instrument.  Her voice helped carry the heart of a song: the braid of sounds and story.  Chan fhiach cuirm gun a còmhradh — it’s no feast if there’s no talk — and there’s not much of a song if there’s no connection.

In an interview, Mary said, “I’m not sure I want to be singing Leaving on a Jet Plane when I’m 75, but I know I’ll still be singing Blowin’ in the Wind.”  She died yesterday, three years short of that, but the connections remain.