When anyone hears the term “folk” music in the United States, they instantly think of people like Woody Guthrie and, of course, Bob Dylan. In other parts of the world, you will often hear other names depending on where you go.
In Canada for example, you will never hear folk music mentioned without at least a passing reference to Gordon Lightfoot and Neil Young, and in the U.K., you would most likely start an argument if you did not put Van Morrison into the mix as well.
While all of these stars certainly can be called folk singers as the simplicity of their music, the down home feel of the melodies and the lyrics beckon one to the outdoors or the protest line which folk music has traditionally been associated with.
Many songs which are considered folk songs without doubt got their starts as a simple protest song like “Blowin in the Wind” by Bob Dylan, or were homages to the land in which the artists resided at the time of composition like Woody Guthries’ “This Land is Your Land”.
Other popular folk songs such as “If I Had a Hammer” by Pete Seeger became anthems for a generation of peace loving flower children from the Haight-Asbury district of San Francisco.
Anti-war protesters also had a huge influence on folk music writers and many a tunes were penned to further that agenda.
“The Eve of Destruction” by Barry McGuire is a perfect example of this and went on to be a huge hit for the artist.
Other great folk songs such as “Sounds of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel and even “The Circle Game” by folk icon Joni Mitchell seemed to transcend the genre and become more mainstream than others.
Some were quite controversial, “The Night they Drove Old Dixie Down” by The Band had to have certain lyrics changed before recording because of the anger and vehemence they would have created.