Have Dental Floss, Will Travel

Mapping the world, one waxy strand at a time…

Puff will always live in my heart…

I grew up on Peter, Paul, and Mary.  My mom used to sing their music to me while I was still in the womb.  If I Had a Hammer was the first song I memorized as a child.  I have half a dozen of their CDs and, until just a few years ago, still had one of their old concert t-shirts in the back of my closet.  So devoted was I that in middle school, when my friends and I tried cigarettes for the first time, we nicknamed them dragons, in honor of my beloved Puff.

I’m perpetually trying to convince Brent that their entire repertoire is original (even though I know that Blowing in the Wind was actually written by Dylan, Leaving on a Jet Plane by John Denver, and Where Have All the Flowers Gone by Pete Seeger).
They’re like distant relatives to me.  I may not see – or listen to – them very often, but I know that they’re always around, always there for me when I need a healthy dose of Lemon Tree or Day is Done.
So you can imagine my distress this morning when I awoke to find out that Mary Travers had died.  Maybe it’s just the stress of the last few weeks, but I actually felt a few tears roll down my cheek when I learned that she’d lost her battle with Leukemia.
In college, I had the opportunity to interview Mary for my senior thesis, a study of how folk music had been used to create a re-politicized memory of the Vietnam War for the children of the flower children.  On the eve of a performance at an anti-war rally in DC, Ms. Travers took the time for a quick phone call.  She was a lovely woman.  In her thick gravely voice, stained from years of cigarettes and pitch-perfect harmonies, she told me why they still performed, why their music continued to resonate in the 21st century, why, in their 60s, they were still traveling the world, spreading their message of peace and justice. 
In honor of Mary and her powerful voice, I think I’ll start my American Revolutions class today by asking my students whether musicians can be revolutionaries.  They may have never heard of Peter, Paul, and Mary, but surely they know of other entertainers agitating for social change.  I’ll be interested to see where the conversation goes.
Puff is dead.  Long live Puff.

4 responses to “Puff will always live in my heart…

  1. X-Country2 September 17, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    What a lovely tribute and a great discussion topic.

  2. Denise September 18, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    At least you had the chance to interview her, that's really cool!

  3. Angela and David Kidd September 18, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    Very nice post and very cool that you got to meet her. I'd be curious to hear what your students said. I think there are still a few musicians in our generation writing about social change but I feel like they get lost with all the attention being given to the Kanye Wests of the world.

  4. HEATHER @ runfastermommy! September 20, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    just passing through and found your blog (by way of Denise!) I too was really heartbroken by the death of Mary! My very first concert was Peter Paul and Mary, and I adore their music. I have such fond memories of growing up listening to them!

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