September 17, 2009 / 2:34 AM / in 8 years

Mary Travers of "Peter, Paul and Mary" dies, age 72

<p>Honorees Paul Stookey, Mary Travers and Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary arrive at the 2006 Songwriters Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York June 15, 2006.Eric Thayer</p>

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Mary Travers, one-third of the 1960s folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary who helped popularize the work of Bob Dylan and sang hits such as "Puff (The Magic Dragon)," has died, aged 72, after battling leukemia.

A statement on the group's website on Wednesday said Travers succumbed "to the side effects of one of the chemotherapy treatments" she was undergoing to fight cancer.

Bandmate Peter Yarrow said that in her last months, Travers handled her declining health "in the bravest, most generous way imaginable." Throughout her long career, he said, Travers sang with honesty and complete authenticity.

"I believe that, in the most profound of ways, Mary was incapable of lying, as a person, and as an artist," Yarrow said. "That took great courage, and Mary was always equal to the task."

The New York Times quoted Travers' spokeswoman, Heather Lylis, as saying the folk singer died at a hospital in Danbury, Connecticut.

Travers, known for her strong voice and long, blond hair, performed alongside guitarists Yarrow and Noel "Paul" Stookey in one of folk music's most popular acts.

The group's version of "Blowin' in the Wind" by a young Bob Dylan helped transform the song into a civil rights anthem and introduced his music to a wider audience.

The group also scored big hits with "If I Had a Hammer" and "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?," co-written by folk artist Pete Seeger.

Along with "Puff," the group's other hits were "Lemon Tree," and "Leaving on a Jet Plane."

The trio's members were also noted for their political activism. They performed at the 1963 civil rights March on Washington and at demonstrations protesting the Vietnam War.

Travers kept up her activism after Peter, Paul and Mary broke up in the early 1970s. She performed as a solo artist before the trio reunited later for benefits and other concerts.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Travers grew up in the Greenwich Village section of New York City. She was influenced at an early age by Woody Guthrie, the Weavers, Leadbelly and other major folk musicians.

"I was raised on Josh White, the Weavers and Pete Seeger," Travers told The New York Times in 1994. "The music was everywhere. You'd go to a party at somebody's apartment and there would be 50 people there, singing well into the night."

Writing by Peter Cooney and Bob Tourtellotte; editing by Mohammad Zargham

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