Mary Travers, who died last week at the age of 72, was one of the first recording artists I ever heard perform live. I don’t recall the exact year, but it would have been in the early 1960s, when I was nearing the end of elementary school or just starting junior high. My father, responding to our growing musical enthusiasm, took my older brother (Don) and me to see Peter, Paul, and Mary, who were performing at one of Chicago’s midsized concert halls (which one, I’m not sure at the moment [old age, etc.]; it would have been the Auditorium, Orchestra Hall, the Opera House, or the Arie Crown Theater).
The details of the music we heard that night are fuzzy. But what I do remember, vividly, with this and other shows that we saw together in the early ’60s (Kingston Trio, Beach Boys, et al.), is how exciting it was, at that age, to hear live music—what an event it was. It was something to plan for and look forward to. It was something that involved, on the night of the concert, traveling into the city and, once inside the hall, finding your seats and waiting, eagerly, for the lights to go down, for the spotlight to come on, for the performers to walk onstage, and for the magic of hearing sounds in the dark to take hold.
I don’t know that I ever properly thanked my father (who died in 1977 at the age of 49) for these early musical adventures. I do know that the feeling I first experienced while on them—that, in listening to live music, you left the humdrum of daily life for something magical—has never faded.
Here, to remember Mary Travers, are two clips. In the first she’s singing background, along with several others, for Bob Dylan. The second is of Peter, Paul, and Mary.
Bob Dylan; Peter, Paul, and Mary; Joan Baez; Pete Singer; Freedom Singers; live, Newport Folk Festival (Rhode Island), 1963
Peter, Paul, and Mary, TV performance, 1963