Thursday, September 17, 2009

Rant #89: Passings of Two People From My Youth

Forget about Jimmy Carter. I woke up today, opened up the newspaper, and found that two of the favorite personalities of my youth passed away yesterday.

Mary Travers was the Mary of Peter, Paul and Mary, and their sounds could be heard everywhere through the 1960s. Firmly entrenched in the folk movement and everything around it, the trio covered songs written by Bob Dylan ("Blowin' in the Wind') and John Denver ("Leavin' On a Jet Plane") and, along with the Kingston Trio, brought folk music into our living rooms.

Travers became a bit of an icon during her day, with her long, straight blonde hair. She was the archetype for many female singers who followed, includng Michelle Phillips, and that look lasted through the Woodstock era, celebrating the freshness of youth.

More importantly, she had a crystalline voice, which blended well with her bandmates.

Henry Gibson was another story altogether. The versatility of this actor allowed him to move on, well past his days on "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In" as the often inept poet who recited his meanderings seemingly attached to a prominent flower. Afterwards, he was an award-winning movie and TV actor, with roles in such diverse projects as "Nashville" and "Boston Legal."

But I was personally introduced to him through "Laugh-In." He was one of the original cast members, and those poems, "By Henry Gibson" as he said, which became a catchphrase, usually were funny in their own kind of way. Actually, "Henry Gibson" was more of a character than a real person on Laugh-In, but he made me laugh.

He had other diverse roles in his lifetime, but I will always remember him with that flower.

Both Travers and Gibson enriched my life, and may they both rest in peace.


  1. Very sad losses and like you a part of my youth.
    Rest in peace to both of them, they will be missed.

  2. Gibson became a fine character actor, although I think few people realized that this was the same guy who was in Laugh-In. I remember that his lesser known Laugh-In character, that of the priest during the party sequences, showed the other side of Gibson. He used a breathier voice, and his best line to me in that persona was the following:

    "We accept all denominations at our church (pause) ... twenties, fifties ...

    How this got past the censor still baffles me to this day.

    Travers set the tone for female singers in the 1960s. Gone were songs about losing boys, finding boys and loving boys; now, girls could sing about social causes too. I think her look, and her attitude, really were quite important in forming what the 1960s became, and everyone from Judy Collins to Joni Mitchell owe her a debt of gratitude.



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