Mary Travers

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Mary Travers
Travers in 1977
Mary Allin Travers

(1936-11-09)November 9, 1936
DiedSeptember 16, 2009(2009-09-16) (aged 72)
Years active1961–2009
John Filler
(m. 1958; div. 1960)
(m. 1963; div. 1968)
Gerald L. Taylor
(m. 1969; div. 1975)
Ethan Robbins
(m. 1991)
ParentVirginia Coigney (mother)
Musical career

Mary Allin Travers (November 9, 1936 – September 16, 2009) was an American singer-songwriter who found fame as a member of the 1960s folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary, along with Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey.[2] Travers grew up amid the burgeoning folk scene in New York City's Greenwich Village,[2] and she released five solo albums. She sang in the contralto range.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Mary Travers was born in 1936 in Louisville, Kentucky, to Robert Travers and Virginia Coigney, journalists and active organizers of The Newspaper Guild, a trade union.[4] In 1938, the family moved to Greenwich Village in New York City.

Mary attended the progressive Little Red School House, where she met musical icons like Pete Seeger and Paul Robeson. Robeson sang her lullabies. Travers left school in the 11th grade to become a member of the Song Swappers folk group.[4]

Singing career[edit]

The Song Swappers sang backup for Pete Seeger on four reissue albums in 1955, when Folkways Records reissued a collection of Seeger's pro-union folk songs, Talking Union. Travers regarded her singing as a hobby (she worked full-time as a dental technician) [5] and was shy about it, but was encouraged by fellow musicians.[2] She also was in the cast of the Broadway show The Next President.[6]

The group Peter, Paul and Mary was formed in 1961, and was an immediate success. They shared a manager, Albert Grossman, with Bob Dylan. Their success with Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" helped propel Dylan's Freewheelin' album into the U.S. Top 30 four months after its release.[7][8]

Peter, Paul and Mary broke up in 1970, shortly after having their biggest UK hit, singer-songwriter John Denver's ballad "Leaving on a Jet Plane" (originally titled "Babe I Hate To Go") (UK No. 2, February 1970). The song, which reached the top of both the U.S. Billboard and Cash Box charts in December 1969, was the group's only number one hit.

Travers subsequently pursued a solo career and recorded five albums: Mary (1971), Morning Glory (1972), All My Choices (1973), Circles (1974) and It's in Everyone of Us (1978).[2] The group reunited for one night in June, 1972 to take part in a special fundraising concert at Madison Square Garden for presidential candidate Sen. George McGovern.

Peter, Paul and Mary re-formed in 1978, toured extensively, and issued many new albums until Travers' death. The group was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999.

Personal life[edit]

Travers was married four times. Her first brief union, to John Filler, produced her older daughter, Erika, in 1960. In 1963, she married Barry Feinstein, a prominent freelance photographer of musicians and celebrities. Her younger daughter, Alicia, was born in 1966, and the couple divorced the following year. In the 1970s, she was married to Gerald Taylor, publisher of National Lampoon. After the end of her marriage to Taylor, Travers had a relationship with lawyer Richard Ben-Veniste for several years while raising her daughters in New York. In 1991 she married restaurateur Ethan Robbins and lived with him in the small town of Redding, Connecticut for the remainder of her life.[2][9]

Illness and death[edit]

In 2004, Travers was diagnosed with leukemia.[10] A bone marrow transplant in 2005 induced a temporary remission, but she died on September 16, 2009, at Danbury Hospital in Connecticut, from complications related to the marrow transplant and other treatments.[2]


Travers in 2006

A memorial service for Travers was held on November 9, 2009, at Riverside Church In New York City. The four-hour service, on what would have been her 73rd birthday, was attended by a capacity crowd. Two of the many reflections shared at the service speak to the impact of Mary Travers's work and the significance of her legacy. Feminist Gloria Steinem commented that with her poise and conviction as a performer, Ms. Travers "seemed to us to be a free woman, and that helped us to be free." Folk singer and co-founder of the Newport Folk Festival, Theodore Bikel, mused on her roles as political activist and glamorous pop-music touchstone:[11]

Solo discography[edit]

  • Mary, Warner Bros., 1971
  • Morning Glory, Warner Bros., 1972
  • All My Choices, Warner Bros., 1973
  • Circles, Warner Bros., 1974
  • It's in Everyone of Us, Chrysalis, 1978

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Harris, Craig; Eder, Bruce. "Biography of Mary Travers". AllMusic. Retrieved October 10, 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Grimes, William (September 16, 2009). "Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary Dies at 72". The New York Times. Retrieved September 17, 2009.
  3. ^ Holden, Stephen (March 20, 1986). "Pop: Peter, Paul and Mary". The New York Times. Retrieved March 25, 2019.
  4. ^ a b Browne, David (September 17, 2009). "Mary Travers (1936–2009)". Rolling Stone. Retrieved July 21, 2016.
  5. ^ "Music-Makers Quit the Square (But Only for the Wintertime)", Village Voice, Oct. 26, 1955
  6. ^ Lindsay, Jay (September 16, 2009). "Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary Dead at 72". San Francisco Chronicle. Associated Press. Archived from the original on September 22, 2009. Retrieved September 17, 2009.
  7. ^ "Folk singer Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary has died, aged 72". The Times. News International. September 17, 2009. Retrieved September 18, 2009.
  8. ^ "Mary Travers: folk singer". The Times. News International. September 18, 2009. Retrieved September 18, 2009.
  9. ^ Harris, Kathryn (September 17, 2009). "Mary Travers of Folk Music Trio Peter, Paul & Mary Dies at 72". Archived from the original on October 25, 2012. Retrieved September 17, 2009.
  10. ^ Keen, Judy (August 28, 2006). "Travers sings praises of her bone marrow donor". USA Today. Retrieved March 4, 2012.
  11. ^ Sisario, Ben (November 10, 2009). "Mary Travers Is Praised for Her Voice and Words". The New York Times. Retrieved November 21, 2015.

External links[edit]