Mary Travers, of ‘Peter, Paul and Mary’ fame died last month, September 16th. This group shaped a lot of my poetic and musical and political outlooks. I remember how impressed I was with their ‘Album 1700’ LP which I bought hot off the press in 1967 when I was in my Leaving Certificate year and had very little ready cash. Of course I was really taken by John Denver’s ‘Leaving on Jet Plane’, but every track was great and the one that (for me) was absolutely revolutionary listening was ‘Whatshername’, a slow-moving, very poignant and, by turns, pathetic monologue from a middle aged man wondering about a girl he used to know and what became of her. At that time I was surprised at the form of the composition (written I think by Noel Stookey the ‘Paul’ in the group’ ) because it was absolutely nothing like the three-minute fomulaic compositions so common at the time, and which I loved very much– Hey! I was teenager! Now I realize that this was one of my first meetings with poetry. It is a marvellous composition. And now also, since I am now well past middle age, I can appreciate it from the resources of life-time experience. And isn’t this the very thing about good writing?– That it retains its power to move you, even after a lifetime? They were truly a great group and she was a great singer and a big influence on me and my attitudes to many things, including major themes like civil rights and war. I can hear her now in my head and I will go on hearing her as long as I live.
Ar a dheis De go raibh a hanam.