Early Morning Rain: Mary Travers

Back in the day, a bunch of us (Stew(art), Jan and raven-haired Diane) would get together and sing folk songs, mostly by Peter, Paul and Mary. Stew was the real talent in the group because he could play guitar. He was also tuned into the Child Scottish ballads. (Francis Child’s The English and Scottish Popular Ballads are considered to be the canon of folk music.)

Diane and I just liked the idea of dressing up like folk singers. I cut my bangs to look just like Mary Travers in my own mind. We listened to PP&M albums all the time. All.The.Time. My mom sort of pretended to listen along. My dad just shook his head and went into the other room to watch TV.

Stew, Diane and I were part of the artsy crowd at our high school. Transplanted into a jock school, we always on the lunatic fringe of football and cheerleading. We adored our art teacher, a painter on the leading edge of the Hungarian New Wave, we imagined.

Gordon Lightfoot was big at the same time. He still is. He’s our Canadian icon. So we’d hang out in the hall near the art class and sing his songs.

PP&M covered one of the pieces he wrote: Early Morning Rain.

There was something about that song that made it our favourite – being stuck in the rain at Malton (now Pearson) Airport with no hope of getting where we needed to – a place far away where Love was, maybe, or some future that we couldn’t yet imagine – appealed to our teen angst. We did a thousand variations of that song.

Stew Cameron succumbed to cancer in 1989. We lost this talent way way too early. And now we’ve lost Mary.

Thank you, Mary, for being a part of me. Thank you, too, Gordon and Stew.

In the early mornin’ rain with a dollar in my hand
And an aching in my heart, and my pockets full of sand
I’m a long way from home, and I miss my loved one so
In the early mornin’ rain with no place to go.

Out on runway number nine, big seven-o-seven set to go
But I’m out here on the grass where the pavement never grows
Well the liquor tasted good and the women all were fast
There she goes my friend, she’s rollin’ down at last.

Hear the mighty engine roar, see the silver wing on high
She’s away and westward bound far above the clouds she’ll fly
Where the mornin’ rain don’t fall and the sun always shines
She’ll be flyin’ o’er my home in about three hours time.

This old airport’s got me down, it’s no earthly good to me
Cause I’m stuck here on the ground,
Cold and drunk, as I might be.
Can’t jump a jet plane like you can a freight train
So I’d best be on my way in the early mornin’ rain.

So I’d best be on my way in the early mornin’ rain.

Mary Travers

Mary Travers was an iconic folk singer, a dedicated activist, a writer and a poet, a mother, and, along with Peter Yarrow and Noel (Paul) Stookey, a member of perhaps the most influential folk music trio in American history.

Peter, Paul & Mary became famous for their ability to convey powerful personal and political messages through a repertoire of songs that became, for millions of Americans, an introduction to political awareness and activism in the movements born in the 60’s; movements for freedom, justice and social equity. For many, Peter, Paul & Mary became the soundtrack of their participation in an ongoing commitment to a progressive American vision of social equity, justice and freedom.

More at the official website for Peter, Paul and Mary

One response to “Early Morning Rain: Mary Travers

  1. It rained in Minnesota Monday and Tuesday and I thought of this song. I’m a huge Gordon Lightfoot fan and got to see him play in Fargo, ND last week with my family.

    I loved reading your story of folk singing. What a fine tribute to Mary!

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