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If I had a Hammer: on Peter, Paul, and Jenny

If I had a Hammer: on Peter, Paul, and Jenny
October 8, 2009 Jennifer Boylan

B72369I know this is last month’s news, but it’s funny to me how moved I was to hear of the death of Mary Travers. I gotta be honest and tell you I hadn’t hauled out any Peter, Paul & Mary records for, oh, about a jillion years. Probably the last time they were on my radar was when my kids were little and we sang Puff the Magic Dragon.

But there I was in the days after the news, cruising the old clips on Youtube, and finding myself terribly moved. Probably just that old passage of time thing, I guess. But look: there I am in 1965, at my aunt’s house in Potter county, Pennsylvania, and there’s my cousin Dave, about to get drafted, arguing with his dad about serving in Vietnam (he eventually got C.O. status); there’s my cousin Peg playing the guitar and singing, with her long hair hanging down. A few years later I was given that guitar, a Stella. And she also gave me a bunch of P,P, & M 45 singles: Blowin in the Wind; Puff; The Lily of the West, and so on. Years later, that first P, P & M record was the first record I ever bought. I remember it had Lemon Tree on it, and This Train is Bound for Glory. There was something on the liner notes of the record (remember “liner notes?”) about how “maybe innocence is coming back!”

What can I tell you– among the many things I knew back then was that I wanted to be someone like this Mary some day, as idiotic a dream as that seemed. I know 1000s of women, of course, many of them trans, but I am the only person I know who, from the earliest age, dreamed of being a beatnik. When I went through transition, I really did have to pass through the “60s hippie” stage of my fashion and deportment, followed by the “70s hippie” stage, followed by..etc. I think scientists call this process “Ontogeny recapitulating phylogeny.”

In 1987, I drove from Baltimore to Nova Scotia with a heavy heart, trying, as I used to put it, to “solve the ‘being alive’ problem.” I had a crappy old version of the Warlocks singing “In the Early Morning Rain” on the tape deck, which I listened to, all haunted. “I’m a long way from home, and I miss my loved one so. In the early morning rain, with no place to go…”

Anyhow: here we are, 2009. I’m the one who plays coal mining songs, and protest tunes, on my Oscar Schmidt autoharp now, and I’ve got that long straight hair, right out of 1965. You see this video of young Mary Travers? I look like that now, except, you know, deformed and old. But you could do worse, than to want to spend your life singing songs, and fighting injustice.

Remind me again: What’s so funny about peace, love and understanding?

5 Comments

  1. Common Teri 9 years ago

    You’re were not alone in secretly wanting to be like Mary Travers. She was the epitome of classy beatnik chic. I was sad to hear of her passing. Though I yearned to just even be a girl it seemed so impossible that I tried to find male music figures that I could relate to. Donovan seemed the closest I could find to a feminine spirit in a male body. His song “Universal Soldier” remains one all time best war protest songs. IMHO

    Long live the spirit of peace. love, and understanding. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Gina James 9 years ago

    Oh yes,that long blond hair.I alaso want that more than anything.But I also wanted to play guitar and sing anyway.Its a tough split.
    Inb camp,I saw a guy play acoustic guitar.He played Blowin In The Wind.I know it from PM&M,Bob Dlyan was a ways off.I wondered why he played that song,till I figured it out later on….That song and PP&M really hit home with me altho I was heavly into the Beatles and related,they somehow rose to the top at one point.I played Leaving On A Jet Plane 1000 times.I remember buying I Love Rock and Roll Music with my mom.
    I cant grow hair like that,but someone has too,so Im glad you do ,Jenny.
    >Gina<

  3. Colin Davidson 9 years ago

    Aw, man…..I totally loved them. I definitely shared your sadness when I heard of Mary’s passing. Many rock bands might have been the angry voices of our generation but PP&M were the voice for me. I preferred the gentle voice with the three-part harmony. I got their “Ten Years Together” album when I graduated high school in 1972. I wore that album out.

  4. SamanthaQ 9 years ago

    Ah Mary how we all love you so! No Jenny, you’re not the only young girl who wanted to grow up to be Mary by any stretch of the imagination. Mary, Janis, Joan, Judy and more were the stuff of my dreams to. I had the honor of seeing them in concert many times over the years and that only made me love them more. Long haired, funny, beatnick chic chick is never out of style. Never. You are so not alone.

  5. SamanthaQ 9 years ago

    Sorry, I put the wrong extension on my web address, could you fixit for me when you moderate the comments? Thank you Jenny, you rock!

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