Friday, September 18, 2009

...but yet, some folk groups meant a lot to me...
I guess through the ages, there've been diehard Folk Music Purists out there, and anytime any kind of 'something different' invades their music, they become Deeply Offended. Remember the Kingston Trio? They were decried by the Folk Purists for being too smooth, for not being somber and overbearingly somber in concert. How about Bob Dylan? He was booed off the stage when he first elected to have Electric Guitars and a Full Band behind him long, long ago. I'm no rabid Dylan fan, but his more-hard-edged music reaches me Just Fine. For instance, Dylan's early acoustic version of "Shelter From The Storm" is a great song, but to me, it became better the instant I heard the "Live" version of that track (it's on the "Hard Rain" album) with a full-tilt rock band behind him, and all of a sudden the song became Really Powerful. Something tells me that while being a Purist may be a serious undertaking, it doesn't sound like a lot of fun to me. I've always been a fan of musical cross-pollination. Mix in a bit of this and a bit of that and let the fun begin!
Peter, Paul and Mary were another of those folk groups that could cross over the lofty boundary between Folk and Rock; they had a long and spirited career, and wrote many of their songs as well as doing outside material, and they remained relevant for a long, long time. Were it not for them, perhaps Bob Dylan would be sweeping out stock rooms and washing dishes; his 'Blowing In The Wind' flew through the masses via the musical wings of Peter, Paul and Mary, who added a sense of brightness and ultra-unique harmonies to really make that song come alive. And the world, and not just the folkies, became aware of Dylan's lyrical prowess. In a way, Peter, Paul and Mary were trendsetters; long around 1968, they did a song called "Too Much Of Nothing", which is an ultra-obscure Dylan tune that is one of his most obscure tunes ever. So how did they find that song? Maybe on a bootleg album? Because Dylan himself had never Officially Released that song by that time. (1968) How about that!
I'm sure that even the most ardent Dylan admirer will readily admit he's not, nor will ever be, the best singer ever...especially in these later days, it sounds like he's got one vocal cord that halfway works. So I value artists such as Peter, Paul and Mary, who could bring great songs to the forefront. For those of us who weren't in Greenwich Village when the Folk Music Boom was happening, hearing these Popularized folk songs was our initial experience to that whole genre. If you like a song written by a certain person, maybe then you can buy that certain person's music, but you wouldn't have heard that song unless it had been popularized by Somebody!
It's always sad when performers we've all come to know pass on into eternity; such was the case with Mary Travers, the "Mary" of Peter, Paul and Mary.
She passed away this week. She Is Missed. Her voice and enthusiasm are timeless. Peter, Paul and Mary picked their material from a diverse selection of writers, doing songs by Bob Dylan, Gordon Lightfoot, Shel Silverstein, Tom Paxton, and Phil Ochs, giving them all early exposure in the ever-competitive music world.
In addition, they wrote a lot of their own material, such as "I Dig Rock And Roll Music" and "Day Is Done", and they wrote an album track that I think is possibly the Greatest anti-war anthem of all (I've never heard it on the radio, but it's great, trust me), a song titled "The Great Mandella (The Wheel Of Life)"; that song caught my ears back in 1967 and still is powerful, disillusioned and bitter, and although it was recorded during the Vietnam War, its message is still timely today. ("The Great Mandella" is on their LP, "Album 1700", which got its title because it was Warner Brothers' Records Catalog Number 1700, so there's a bit of trivia). This, from the same group that wrote and sang "Puff The Magic Dragon", a song that makes me think of Innocence Lost every time I hear it.
Peter, Paul and Mary will always exist in a corner of My Particular Musical Universe. And, the voice of Mary Travers, along with her bandmates, are indeed Voices Of and For the ages. That's quite a legacy. By the way, Yes, I know The Byrds also popularized Dylan songs, but that's another subject for another post. This post has gotta end sometime, y'know...


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