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Published: Saturday, 9/19/2009

Recalling Mary

SHE was one-third of a famous folk trio that was the soundtrack of the Baby Boom generation. No doubt Mary Travers' death Wednesday at age 72 brought bittersweet memories to millions of Americans of a certain age who grew up listening to the rich, three-part harmony of Peter, Paul, and Mary.

She was the tall, willowy blonde flanked by a pair of goateed guitarists named Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey. They were beatniks who made it big in the 1960s with folk music that resonated with the mainstream as well as radicals caught up in the turbulent tides of the decade.

Some of the group's songs, propelled by the powerful voice of Ms. Travers, became the embraced anthems of the civil rights movement and Vietnam War protests. It's difficult to picture war opponents demonstrating without hearing Peter, Paul, and Mary singing "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?"

Likewise, "If I Had a Hammer" was a song for racial equity, and the folk singers, who fully adopted the civil rights cause, stirred activists when they sang "Blowin' in the Wind" at the August, 1963, March on Washington. As outspoken liberals, the folk musicians took political risks that other groups courting a mass audience might have avoided.

But their seamlessly blended voices had an honesty and authenticity that made them nonthreatening, whether they were tweaking the social consciousness or performing the whimsical "Puff the Magic Dragon." And always at the center of the act stood the bright, edgy Mary Travers, mingling music with politics and reveling in the enduring power of a most memorable soundtrack.

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