One afternoon my sophomore year of high school, I grew bored with the treacle my peers were requesting on the radio. While rummaging through a hall closet, I found a milk crate full of vinyl, and in that crate, I found an album in a plain paper sleeve, with the words “PETER, PAUL AND MARY” printed across the top in my mom’s neat manuscript.
I spent the next couple of years seizing every available excuse to cut class and sneak over to Carbondale to scour the Record Exchange’s bargain bins for folk albums, which I could usually purchase for 25 to 50 cents apiece. That continued to be a favorite pastime in college; if I close my eyes and think about it for a minute, I can still smell the air in that store, a heady mix of patchouli and dust and yellowing paper, disintegrating cardboard and cigarette smoke and sometimes a hint of something earthier.
I’d always hoped Peter, Paul and Mary would show up to play a concert somewhere within driving distance, but it never happened. Even as I was liberating that first album from Mom’s collection almost 20 years ago, the band was starting to wind down, concert dates getting fewer and farther between. As usual, I was a couple of decades late and a dollar short.
Twenty years ago, Peter, Paul and Mary made me dream of changing the world. Tonight, I’m still trying.
Farewell, Mary. Thank you for sharing your voice with us, and thank you for inspiring a latter-day hippie whose social conscience expanded along with her record collection. Your legacy reaches farther than you’ll ever realize.