Peter, Paul and Mary were a United States folk-singing trio whose nearly 50-year career began with their rise to become a paradigm for 1960s folk music. The trio was composed of folk song writer Peter Yarrow, (Noel) Paul Stookey and Mary Travers. After the death of Mary Travers in 2009, Yarrow and Stookey continued to perform as a duo under their individual names. (More from Wikipedia)
The first Bob Dylan album, Bob Dylan was released with great fanfare by Columbia Records in March 1962; it is a relatively conventional folk album that is not unlike those that Joan Baez, Judy Collins, and Peter, Paul and Mary were recording at the time, with just two original songs. The album was produced by John H. Hammond, the legendary talent scout who signed Bob Dylan to Columbia. Though excellent in every way – for instance, the album includes “Man of Constant Sorrow”, the song (as performed by the Soggy Bottom Boys, with George Clooney on lead vocals) that was made famous in the 2000 Coen Brothers film O Brother Where Art Thou – Bob Dylan sold just 5,000 copies initially; and Columbia Records executives began grumbling about Dylan’s being “Hammond’s folly”.
And Joan Baez was there beginning in 1960 when the folk music revival was in its heyday; and she wasn’t political at all in the beginning. Folk music has always been fairly gender-balanced – besides Joan, Judy Collins and Joni Mitchell were leading lights who went on to have long careers. The folk groups often had at least one woman – there was Mary Travers in Peter, Paul and Mary, and Ronnie Gilbert in the Weavers.
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Major and minor artists alike often have spiritually themed songs or overtly Christian songs on their albums. The first cut on Simon and Garfunkel’s debut album, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. is a gospel song called “You Can Tell the World” that was written by Gibson & Camp (Bob Gibson and Bob Camp – later known as Hamilton Camp). Peter, Paul and Mary had numerous gospel songs on their albums, including “This Train” on their first album, Peter, Paul and Mary. Also on this album, under the name “If I Had My Way”, is a traditional song also called “Samson and Delilah” that is based on the Biblical account. Many other rock musicians have recorded this song, notably the Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, Ike and Tina Turner, Bruce Springsteen, and Garbage front woman Shirley Manson.
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One of the early songs that I remember with a Christian theme is “People Get Ready”, which was a #14 hit for the Impressions in 1965. The theme is likely the tumultuous changes that were roiling the nation in the mid-1960’s, like the Civil Rights Movement; but the “train” that is mentioned frequently in this song is basically the same one in the Peter, Paul and Mary song, “This Train” mentioned earlier, whose lyrics include: “This train is bound for Glory, this train”.
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A Catholic blogger called Man in the Woods has a post that lists “The 13 Best Theological Band Names”.
This blog cites the gentle 1960’s folksinging trio Peter, Paul and Mary as an “honorable mention”; even though those are the actual first names of the bandmembers, these three people are about as prominent as it gets in the New Testament.
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On the other hand, Bob Dylan’s next album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan was a big hit, and largely because Peter, Paul and Mary had a #2 hit with “Blowin’ in the Wind” that was released just three weeks after Freewheelin’ – Albert Grossman, who was managing both Dylan and PP&M in that time period, brought them the song, and they immediately recorded and released it.
But suppose Peter, Paul and Mary hadn’t had the same manager as Bob Dylan, or that they hadn’t liked “Blowin’ in the Wind”? Or suppose it hadn’t been a hit? Bob Dylan is an unquestioned songwriting genius, but his singing style is an acquired taste – if Dylan had to depend on his own recordings, the world might have already moved on by the time “Like a Rolling Stone” came out more than two years later.
You think I’m kidding? You think Bob Dylan is such a huge talent that he would have been a success no matter what? Consider the case of Mimi and Richard Fariña.