Where Did Folk Music Start?

where did folk music start

Folk music has long been linked with political movements, both left wing cultural revolutionaries and right wing nationalist composers. Additionally, its use has helped rally troops during war.

Folk music has been kept alive by several musicians such as the Kingston Trio, Noel Stookey, and Chad Mitchell; however, its influence waned with disco, punk music, and MTV with its emphasis on visually stunning videos.


Folk music has developed through time, influenced by advances in written tradition and shifts in popular culture. Many songs were passed from generation to generation orally before eventually being written down; radio and recorded music also helped shape its development by providing musicians new avenues to make a living from their art.

As such, several prominent folk singers have become cultural icons: Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan and Joan Baez are just three notable folk music figures that have achieved such status. Although their music draws heavily upon traditional themes, each has developed his or her own distinct sound to set themselves apart from their fellow performers.

Folk music has long been used as an agent of social change. Its uplifting lyrics and inspiring melodies have inspired people to continue fighting for their rights; one such example being “We Shall Overcome,” the anthem of the Civil Rights Movement during its 1960s incarnation; this tune gave hope and comforted hearts during difficult times.

Broadsides were an innovation that revolutionized folk music, providing printed sheets containing lyrics and instructions for singing to an established tune. This introduced literacy into folk music and made it more widely accessible. Furthermore, classical composers like Franz Schubert adopted folk songs into their works, adding them as part of art music tradition.

Today, folk music has seen its popularity decrease and has been overtaken by other genres such as rock and roll. But some young people – particularly politically active ones – have discovered its appeal again; protest songs from civil rights movements like that used by Joanna Newsom as well as modern artists with unique sounds have brought new energy and ideas into this genre of music.


Folk music tends to be culturally specific and participatory, often coming from specific regions or cultures rather than the dominant pop or rock styles. Folk clubs and sessions provide venues where listeners are invited to sing along.

Folk music traditionally includes English songs with political or social messages, such as those created by Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and other folk artists of the 1960s who used their music to protest Vietnam War, support equality and promote labor rights.

Folk music refers to any genre rooted in culture, such as Zydeco from southern Louisiana which blends jazz with African-American gospel and blues. Acoustic instruments used in folk music are usually non-electrified such as guitar and banjo; most folk singer-songwriters write their own material while performing older cover versions as well.

Modern folk has grown into an expansive movement, featuring musicians utilizing popular styles like acoustic guitar-based acoustic rock and blues to craft their songs. Additionally, singer-songwriters who focus more on personal themes, like Joni Mitchell or Bon Iver, may use this genre.

At the height of the 1960s folk revival, some musicians started including spiritual lyrics in their songs. Noel Stookey welcomed his conversion and introduced gospel into his repertoire while folk-rocker Barry McGuire wrote several tunes about God himself.

In the 2000s, folk experienced a revival. Artists such as Animal Collective, Joanna Newsom, and Devendra Banhart brought an experimental edge to folk by adding more unique sounds and instruments – for instance Animal Collective’s song Winter’s Love invokes longing with its acoustic instruments and haunting vocals; some call this genre “freak-folk”, which continues to thrive into today with musicians like Justin Vernon and Lianne La Havas bringing soulful influences to folk.


Folk music draws its inspiration from many diverse sources. Traditional songs from Celtic and Gaelic cultures, as well as African rhythms, often find their way into this genre. When European settlers settled new lands, their musical traditions often blended with those of local inhabitants to produce many new genres such as bluegrass and country.

Folk music has its own distinct lyrical and melodic characteristics that set it apart from other genres, from love songs to work and war anthems. Folk has often been used as a vehicle to bring about social change and awareness – an iconic protest song called “We Shall Overcome” being one such example from during the civil rights movement that encouraged listeners to fight for equality.

Folk music often explores the plight of orphans. These tales often feature fictional children left abandoned or vulnerable against nature’s elements – serving as a poignant reminder that life can change quickly and that cherishing those we have is essential.

Recently, folk music has experienced a revival among younger audiences. Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell and Buffy Sainte-Marie have emerged as talented singer-songwriters within this generation; Bon Iver has made his mark within folk music too; recording his acclaimed album For Emma Forever Ago in a cabin-like environment makes for emotive lyrics that speak directly to those experiencing heartache.

Bob Dylan rose to prominence during the 1960s folk music scene with his revolutionary protest songs that encouraged listeners to question the status quo and question authority figures. His iconic “Blowin’ in the Wind” became an anthem of civil rights activism while drawing awareness to social injustice issues.

In the 2000s, folk music inspired artists like Animal Collective and Devendra Banhart. These performers took it into new realms of experimentation and psychedelia through their haunting voices and magical instruments such as harp. Listeners could experience feelings of wonderment that took them faraway places.


Folk songs have been passed along orally through oral transmission for centuries; with the development of recording technology they could then be shared with a wider audience. Recordings were first made on wax cylinders before moving to vinyl records and cassette tapes before finally CDs became the dominant format.

Original folk music consisted of acoustic instruments like guitar, banjo, mandolin and fiddle played acoustically as well as hand percussion. Songs typically featured English lyrics that focused on social justice or issues important to a certain community; artists like Bob Dylan often took political positions while Joan Baez focused on more personal ones while The Kingston Trio covered older folk songs.

As the 1950s gave way to the 1960s, many folk musicians experimented with rock and roll. Groups such as Beau Brummels, Byrds and Lovin’ Spoonful all crossed over into pop/folk music using electric guitars; byrds’ Roger McGuinn popularized a 12-string Rickenbacker which combined traditional folk sounds with rock’s deep basslines for an electric sound that combined folk melodies with rock basslines.

The 1960s folk revival revived many of the same themes associated with 19th century folk movements, such as peace and love. Artists such as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Lead Belly and Woody Guthrie all addressed these concerns; Noel Stookey and Barry McGuire underwent religious conversions and added Gospel songs to their repertoires.

Folk music remains immensely popular, from singer-songwriters like Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, to psychedelic folk acts such as Animal Collective. Artists such as Joanna Newsom and Devendra Banhart evoke feelings of longing through their music; one subgenre known as freak-folk introduces experimentalism and psychedelia into this genre while providing vocal harmonies that are distinctive yet hypnotic – listening to this music could just lead to falling in love all over again!