Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Rest in Peace, Mary Travers

Reading the news tonight that Mary Travers of Peter Paul and Mary has died, I am struck by nostalgia and sadness. As a folk music lover, guitar player, and singer, I've always loved Peter Paul and Mary. As a pacifist and progressive, I've always loved their music and their message. Noel Paul Stookey and Peter Yarrow have written wonderful tributes of their musical collaborator and partner on their web site.

Travers had been battling leukemia for several years; I knew she was ill. But her death makes me so sad. Her message of peace, tolerance, and compassion is so desperately needed right now.

Here are some wonderful old videos of PP&M--one of my favorites, "If I Had a Hammer," which Pete Seeger wrote but PP&M made big:

Check out this great oldie with a VERY YOUNG Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and the Freedom Singers at the Newport Folk Festival in 1963:

And this one, in which the "real" meaning of "Puff the Magic Dragon" is explained:

My favorite Peter Paul and Mary song is "Light One Candle," which Mike and I sang frequently for meetings focusing on peace through our church...and we were also asked to sing the song at the funeral of two young people, Mark and Katie, who died in their prime, while on a hike in the Columbia Gorge. I will never forget that horrible evening...with two coffins at the front of the church. That song seemed apt for their lives, which were committed to peace and justice. Chris was just a baby then--and I remember him waving to everyone at the funeral while we were singing. Later, the grieving family commented that his waves cheered their souls.

I can't find the video (Peter Paul and Mary's web site is down), but here are the great lyrics.

Light one candle for the Maccabee children
With thanks that their light didn't die
Light one candle for the pain they endured
When their right to exist was denied
Light one candle for the terrible sacrifice
Justice and freedom demand
But light one candle for the wisdom to know
When the peacemaker's time is at hand

Don't let the light go out!
It's lasted for so many years!
Don't let the light go out!
Let it shine through our love and our tears.

Light one candle for the strength that we need
To never become our own foe
And light one candle for those who are suffering
Pain we learned so long ago
Light one candle for all we believe in
That anger not tear us apart
And light one candle to find us together
With peace as the song in our hearts (chorus)

What is the memory that's valued so highly
That we keep it alive in that flame?
What's the commitment to those who have died
That we cry out they've not died in vain?
We have come this far always believing
That justice would somehow prevail
This is the burden, this is the promise
This is why we will not fail! (chorus)

Don't let the light go out!
Don't let the light go out!
Don't let the light go out!

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