The Folk Music Revival 1960s

Folk music‘s revival in the 1960s coincided with a height in civil rights activism; Doc Watson made his mark as part of Berkeley Folk Festival’s 1964 lineup, for instance.

Kingston Trio’s “Tom Dooley” brought folk music into the mainstream, inspiring subsequent folk-style pop bands such as Peter, Paul & Mary, The Limeliters and others who often sang songs in languages other than English.

The Weavers

In 1948, Seeger joined with Hays and Hellerman – two banjoists and guitarists respectively – to form The Weavers. Following an impressive Village Vanguard concert performance, this folk group made waves across North America with songs that mixed traditional ballads with original compositions like Lead Belly’s “Goodnight Irene” and Woody Guthrie’s “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine”. Their recordings became major hits; but during McCarthyism’s McCarthyism-era blacklisting they were accused of communism sympathization and blacklisted from radio and television broadcasts as communist sympathizers – both allegations which eventually led them out.

McCarthyism had an intoxicating effect, and The Weavers were one of its more visible victims. Their songs became standards of folk music and their acoustic style combined with Seeger’s remarkable singing and guitar playing made them immensely popular groups.

No matter the allegations that Seeger was accused of communism, he did not back down from standing his ground and refusing to answer questions from the House Un-American Activities Committee on grounds that his First Amendment right not to testify was being violated. Although initially found guilty of contempt of Congress for his refusal to testify, his conviction was later overturned.

Once The Weavers disbanded in 1955, Seeger continued performing solo and with other artists. He was an influential mentor and coach to younger musicians such as Bob Dylan and Joan Baez; additionally providing them with tools they would need for success in music business.

By the early 1960s, groups such as Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul, and James had helped reinvigorate folk music and spread it more broadly. At this point, “folk” became part of everyday musical parlance to describe any performer playing unamplified music without amplifiers.

By the early ’60s, the folk scene had changed drastically; many deviations from its traditional format reflected an increasingly conservative vision of America less accepting of change. This trend, combined with McCarthyist blacklisting of artists such as The Weavers, led to an incredible folk music revival during this era.

Buffy Sainte-Marie

Buffy Sainte-Marie stands out in folk music history as one of its most striking voices. A troubadour, singer-songwriter, mixed media digital artist and educator with a wide-ranging social agenda, her songs speak out on issues pertaining to Native American rights, environmental conservation and intercultural relationships; her lyrics often explore Native American rights issues such as Native American land rights. Furthermore, her poetic lyrics and revolutionary guitar tunings break new ground within this genre.

The 1960s witnessed many talented newcomers to folk music’s forefront emerge, such as Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez. Both were heralded by critics and audiences alike for creating timeless music which touched hearts across America – particularly young audiences – by appealing to young audiences’ desires for peace and love while at the same time supporting civil rights initiatives through their songs.

As the folk music revival gained traction, interest in other musical traditions expanded as well. While The Kingston Trio had popularized skiffle-influenced folk music with their skiffle style, there was increasing appreciation of traditional blues artists like Hudy Ledbetter (“Leadbelly”) and Clara Ward Singers as well as Irish music performed by Dubliners and Irish Rovers; bluegrass also received significant consideration during this era.

Folk musicians who gained popularity during the folk music revival of the 1960s often came from families that had long held traditions of singing and playing folk songs. Soon enough however, “folk musician” would include artists performing more original, poetic material alongside traditional material; singer-songwriters (commonly Suzanne Vega or Bruce Cockburn were examples) often fit this bill as well.

The 1960s folk music revival elevated Pete Seeger to greater fame through his musical activism. He used his music to advocate for civil rights and other social causes while being revered as an expert on traditional folk music – his singing and playing styles are still revered today. Furthermore, Seeger was an influential teacher who taught others about folklore, traditions, as well as being active politically working towards environmental conservation and peace.

Chad Mitchell Trio

The Chad Mitchell Trio were one of the most beloved groups during the folk revival movement of the 1960s. Their tight harmonies and striking social commentary set them apart from their contemporaries, earning them a dedicated fan base despite only lasting briefly together. Though short lived, their impactful music left an indelible imprint on folk music circles worldwide.

Folk music revival was predominantly an English-language phenomenon; however, groups such as Limeliters and Weavers included songs in other languages (often from Mexico), Polynesian languages, Russian and French as well. Many traditional pieces were performed alongside more experimental compositions made with recycled traditional material to produce innovative pieces.

Although the early folk revival was relatively small in scale, its success had a lasting impact on American culture. It spawned new groups while providing established performers such as Pete Seeger with greater exposure. Furthermore, its success gave rise to voter registration drives and lunch counter sit-ins using folk songs as part of voter registration drives; Civil Rights movements used them similarly for voter registration drives or lunch counter sit-ins; Peace movements also turned folk music into their voice during protests against nuclear weapons or the Vietnam War.

In 1958, The Kingston Trio’s recording of Tom Dooley became a Top 10 hit, propelling their careers as well as those of several other folk music groups into stardom and heralding the mainstream acceptance of folk music as an art form. It marked an important turning point in its evolution into mainstream commercial genre.

Although The Weavers had some chart hits, their success never reached that of The Dixie Dregs or other large acts in the folk revival scene. After experiencing limited success together, its original lineup – Mitchell, Kobluk and Frazier – parted ways after just three albums had been recorded; Mitchell went on to release several solo albums while becoming an influence on young singer-songwriter Bob Dylan.

Kobluk and Frazier both went on to pursue musical careers after leaving the group; Kobluk served as Director of Performing Arts at Spokane Expo ’74; Frazier remained active in music business before attending divinity school; Mitchell continued performing alongside various artists before eventually becoming an author.

Bob Dylan

By blending folk, country, and rock into his work, Dylan created an entirely new audience for folk revivalism. Without his efforts, such an event might never have taken place.

After rising through the ranks of Greenwich Village coffee houses, Dylan began playing concerts to sold-out crowds. His eloquent style echoed Woody Guthrie and captured the progressive energy present on college campuses and folk clubs alike.

Joan Baez was an enormous influence on him; she included many of his songs in her repertoire and exposed him to a wider audience. Dylan released his debut LP in 1962 which established him as an often humorous Chaplinesque interpreter of folk tradition; but by The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan released one year later revealed an eloquent writer of both protest songs (notably Blowin’ in the Wind’s title track) and love songs (“Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right” and “Girl from North Country”).

As soon as the Smothers Brothers–a left-leaning comedy duo who both worked within and parodied Folk Revival conventions–released their first album for Capitol Records in 1957, it made them instant stars and popularized the term “pop-folk”. Their method of breaking through to wider audiences would later be adopted by Limeliters and Highwaymen, not to mention Glenn Campbell–one of the most successful Country singers of his era.

Dylan’s next album, Bringing It All Back Home (1965), marked another breakthrough in his music, as he openly adopted electric instruments and dismantled traditional folk dogma. Additionally, his songs began becoming more directly political; many focused on social justice issues and workers’ struggles; The Byrds recorded one such track, Mr. Tambourine Man, that eventually went mainstream success.

Though some younger musicians in the folk revival of the 1960s had more traditional musical backgrounds, all drew on an established tradition of singing and playing acoustic guitars. Part of a generation that experienced both Civil Rights activism and peace movements first-hand, their work had an urgency never seen in genre before; be it evoking poignant memories such as “Sara Lownds,” or conveying plaintive longing through murder ballads like “Poor Lazarus”, these artists’ performances remain unparalleled to this day.