When I was growing up, the music in our house was folk music. Pete Seeger, The Weavers, Joan Baez, Woody and Arlo Guthrie, The Kingston Trio.
Peter, Paul, & Mary.
I love folk music. It wasn’t albums by The Who or The Beatles that I held in my lap as a teen, memorizing the lyrics printed on the back covers. It was the folk musicians, the words from songs that had been around a hundred years and the new lyrics they were writing for the causes close to their own hearts, in their own eras. I still go back to their songs for comfort, inspiration, and–honestly–some of the best music and harmony I’ve ever found.
I saw Arlo Guthrie in concert in the eighties. Saw Joan Baez in Santa Cruz just a couple of years ago. To my loss, I never got to hear Peter, Paul, and Mary in person.
Thank goodness for recordings–albums, tapes, CDs, mp3s. Youtube.
Part of what I listened to this music for– a big part–was the lyrics. The poetry. And here’s the thing about me, listening to and singing those words.
As a child, I was a worrier. (Okay, okay, STILL a worrier!) And the lyrics of folk music–well, a lot of them did not paint such a pretty, happy picture of the world. A lot of them were filled with anger and frustration about the things happening around us. I knew, even as a kid, that the anger was important and good and necessary.
And, yet, it worried me. So I would listen to those songs, over and over, with inspiration and motivation and a little, hot core of anxiety inside me.
Except when Mary, with Peter & Paul, sang.
I don’t know why the anxiety wasn’t there, from their music. They sang about problems that needed to be changed, they sang about things we should all be doing to fix those problems, and they sang loud and strong and often. And yet, somehow, for me–in their singing was hope. That the world was, if not great, okay and definitely salvageable. That we could fix things and that, maybe, I could actually be one of the strong ones to help out on that path. They made me feel part of something possible, not worry so much about whether I could be, for instance…a Woody Guthrie. Watch some of their videos–they are smiling. Not blindly or blandly, but with confidence and strength and hope. Somehow that hope came to me off their albums, too, and let me sing along at the top of my lungs without doubt or worry or fear.
This is what Mary Travers did for me. Not to mention standing up on stage, herself, SO strong, SO confident, SO powerful and so obviously a true, absolute peer and friend of the two men on either side of her.
One of my favorite songs of Mary Travers was one I didn’t discover until I was older–Poem for Erika/For Baby. Take a listen:
Thank you, Mary.
I’ll keep singing.