Was Mary Travers Janice the Muppet?

The news of course is that Mary Travers of the 1960’s rock group Peter Paul and Mary died today.

Joan Garry at NJ.com has an interesting blog post. I think the headline is a little unusual [Later note: she fixed it], but once you read the text it is clear that the sentiment is that so many of the people who shaped the 1960’s youth generation are now up in years. And one day they are around, and then they are gone from us.

Via the Atlantic website, I caught this quote from Michael Yaki who writes at SF Gate (San Francisco Chronicle):

American Icon Finally, San Francisco Chronicle columnist Michael Yaki says that Travers’s image remains the inspiration for a popular children’s television show character: “And, oh, by the way, the muppet “Janice” was not Janice Joplin, was not Joni Mitchell. Janice’s blonde mop, heavy lidded eyes, and wide lips and loosely goosey personality could only have the one, the only, the irrepressible and irreplaceable Mary Travers.”


I have to consider that one a bit.

I think Peter Paul and Mary was one of the cutting edge bands of that time. And so since Mary was the only woman of the group, she was bound to be influential on the rock scene.

A lot of the work that Jim Henson did with the Muppets was to reflect things about 1960’s and ’70’s American life and society back on us through his puppeteering. But I’m not sure that it was simply that Henson did knock off characters based on actual people around at that time.

MaryTravers with JD

I think his creativity went more towards creating personae that reflected a generality, a movement or idea. Especially the later Muppet Show characters.

But yes, you could definitely point to Mary Travers from PP&M and say that she had a big influence on the rock scene of those days. No doubt countless of the young chicks tried to emulate and imitate Travers—the hair and the whole get-up. And she might have been one of the godmothers of that sort of style. (Hoofin was a little too young at the time to really know what the “scene” was, actually. At best he was Crawlin’.)

We used to have to sing “Puff the Magic Dragon” every now and again back in those grade school days. So this sad passing was an education for me about where the song came from.

I didn’t realize it had a little more pedigree than just some silly song you make kids sing for laughs . . .

5 thoughts on “Was Mary Travers Janice the Muppet?

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