Friday, September 18, 2009

Mary Travers: R.I.P.

Two days ago Mary Travers, the female part of the popular folk music group Peter Paul and Mary, passed away from leukemia at the age of 72. Any American growing up in the 1960s and '70s grew up with their music. Music has a unique ability to cut through the protective walls we build around ourselves and to touch our souls. The songs of this particular group embodied the countercultural protest movement of the time. In particular, Blowin' in the Wind and If I Had a Hammer became anthems of the civil rights movement, sung at the March on Washington in 1963. One summer before the Verrazano Bridge was built I went to day camp. We would ride the ferry from the camp in Staten Island back to Brooklyn, and we would have to wait at the terminal for the boat to arrive. While we were waiting the bus would reverberate with If I Had a Hammer.

I didn't (and don't) agree with all of PP&M's political views, but I was fully signed on to the civil rights movement as soon as I became aware of what it was about. I like to believe that had I been a few years older I would have marched in Selma or been a freedom rider. Thank God we in New York had no overt Jim Crow laws that I can remember, but there were unwritten, unspoken restrictions on where black people could live, what occupations they could pursue and so forth. That kind of apartheid is the Lord's abomination, and for we who suffered under Hitler to tolerate it here at home is doubly abominable.

At this time of year we experience heightened awareness of the brevity and fragility of human life. We think of those who were positive influences in our lives who have since passed on, and we have reached an age where more and more of those people are no longer with us. It is for those of us whose souls were touched by Mary Travers's music to continue to propagate her message of love, brotherhood and intolerance for injustice and inhumanity.

If I had a bell
I'd ring it in the morning
I'd ring it in the evening
All over this land
I'd ring out danger
I'd ring out a warning. . . .

Sounds familiar? Good.

Wishing all my readers a ktiva va-hatima tova. May you have a year of happiness, health and God's blessings.


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