Theres Something About Mary
Published: Wednesday, March 24, 2004
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
Mary, I can say with fond memories, was my first.
That voice, husky yet soulful; those words, genuine and truthful; and lest I forget, that long, golden mane of hair.
Oh, that hair.
Yes, for all intents and purposes, Mary Travers was the first female, besides my mother, with whom I shared a real, human bond. And after almost 19 years now, she's still in my heart.
If you've already done the math in your head, you've figured out that I wasn't but a toddler when our relationship blossomed. But that's because my love of Mary isn't of the romantic, but of the musical. The songs of Travers, along with her two friends, Noel Paul Stookey and Peter Yarrow - known collectively as Peter, Paul and Mary - were the first exposure to music I ever had.
The wonder of a record player's mechanics combined with the sounds that came out of it sparked my imagination at just three years old. How could a shiny, round plastic disc make Mary pour out of these tiny little speakers and into my ears?
It must have been magic.
My parents, whose folk records I had adopted as my own, took my brother and me to a Peter, Paul and Mary concert at Kleinhan's Music Hall downtown. It was my first concert. I sat in awe of the three voices that shared songs of peace and freedom, and for the first time, found an artist to which I could relate.
This process of finding new music is normal to me now, though it takes a different form.
I'll find a new artist (or one that's new to me) and copy their MP3 files into my iTunes Library and onto my iPod. Simple as that; song acquired, song filed, song listened to. Maybe later I'll delete the files; maybe I'll put them into a playlist for further listening.
No record, no first concert, no special memory.
For a three-year-old boy, the wonder of that folk music was truly special and the concert a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.
So when it was announced last spring that the trio, now in their late 60s, was coming back to Buffalo - to Kleinhan's, of all venues - I thought I'd make that one-time memory a repeat.
As the folk genre generally goes, it's often considered by younger audiences as "old person" music, only listened to on NPR and watched on PBS. While that's not entirely untrue, I admit that there's corniness in a song that wears its emotions on its sleeves.
Stookey's "Right Field," a perfect example, is nothing more than a boy talking about the joy of baseball. Their most famous song, "Puff (The Magic Dragon)," is about a boy and his pet dragon (though most would argue that it's the greatest marijuana anthem ever written).
The trio, which has performed together for 43 years now, is not so young anymore, though, but Travers, Stookey and Yarrow are more astute than ever.
Their civil rights advocacy hasn't wavered since the '60s, when the movement was a bigger priority than it is today. Though we still have war and social injustice to contend with, there's a greater apathy towards speaking up for personal rights. The price for freedom has never been so high.
During the civil rights movement of the '60s, which our parents lived through in some capacity, the line between intolerance and justice was clearly defined. PP&M were arrested for their anti-establishment stance and called in by the House Un-American Activities Committee for suspicion of treasonous and disloyal conduct. They were Dixie Chick-ed before the Dixie Chicks were even born.
Seeing them in concert Saturday night, I was able to appreciate them on a new level. Maybe it's the fact that I'm now of the age that our parents were when they first heard the words of Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" or Pete Seeger's "Where Have All the Flowers Gone."
Maybe it's because in that era, their words seem to count for something. Maybe it's because there were artists unafraid to speak their opinion, no matter how unpopular it was.
Maybe it's because there was bound to be a child in the audience who would fall in love with them the way I did.
I still think it's magic.