Resources: Genres and Performers: Folk-AmericanAs early as the 1910s, Americans becan to look back at their various ancestories and to 'revive' the music of their fathers. The first American folk-music revival to have political coloring occurred in the 1930s when political activists used traditional-styles of music to communicate social discontent with events of the Great Depression and the conditions that Labor endured. The United States' folk revival of the 1960s had both the political coloring of the 1930s revival and a intense interest in finding and preserving old music that, becasue it was part of an oral/aural tradition, would be lost. Interest in traditional music continued in the 1970s, less in the 1980s, and enjoyed a small growth during the 1990s.
Woody Guthrie, one of the most notable figures who influenced contemporary American folk music began his musical career during the Great Depression. He traveled, did odd jobs, wrote songs, and performed his music for a living. His songs include, "Vigilante Man," "Pastures of Plenty," "Do-Re-Mi," "This Land Is Your Land," "So Long, It's Been Good to Know You," "Blowin' Down This Long Dusty Road," and others.
Pete Seeger, son of musicologist Charles Seeger, is regarded by many as the, "Father of the 60s Folk Revival," and, "America's Tuning Fork."
Pete Seeger was one of the founding members of the Almanac Singers, a group that wrote and advanced politically liberal topical songs and quickly attracted Woody Guthrie as a member. The Almanac Singers, the Weavers, Lead Belly, and Alan Lomax all became prevalent in this politically charged folk music revival.
World War II slowed activity in the 1940s and, in the 1950s created a climate in which "left-wing" political opinipons were considered anti-American and many artists (including Pete Seger) were black-listed by McCarthy's red scare. By the late 1950s, however, commercial interest in in folk music helped launch the revival of the 60s. The Kingston Trio's commercially successful relaease of "Tom Dooley," helped make folk attractive to the mainstream, especially on college campuses. The New Lost City Ramblers, Dave Van Ronk, Judy Collins, Joan Baez, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Doc Watson, Mississippi John Hurt all found their places in this surge of interest.
Bob Dylan, inspired by many of the traditional ballads, contemporary political folk songs and the blues, achieved his own success in the early 60s. And while there is broad agreement that his singing and playing fall short, his intesity and the content of the music he writes caught (and continues to catch) the imagination of other folksingers who also record it.
Other singer/songwriters such as Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs, Joni Mitchell, Tom Rush, Cat Stevens, Neil Young, Janis Ian, John Prine and Arlo Guthrie were also among the most prevailent folk performers of the 60s. Coffeehouses and house concerts spread from New York and New England to the rest of the country, setting a trend that became exceptionally popular in the 1990s. Some of the music incoporated elements of jazz and eastern music and launched "folk rock" performers like The Byrds, Simon and Garfunkle, Sonny and Cher, Lovin' Spoonful, and the Mamas and Papas.
Folk rock and folk persisted through the Vietnam war and remains viable in rural and urban communities across the country. Coffee houses and house concerts are now more popular than they were thirty years ago. Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins, Peter Paul and Mary, Odetta and other performers who gained recognition in the 60s still draw large audiences now. Interest in Kate Wolfe's work continues to grow, and such perfomres as David Wilcox, Shawn Colvin, the Indigo Girls, and Laura Love enjoy growing audiences for their folk rock performances. Artists like Bill and Libby Hicks, The Red Clay Ramblers and Hugh Blumenfeld, are emerging to carry the torch of folk music through tours in venues like Borders and Barnes & Noble and through devoting time to folk music resources like the About.com site listed below. Local folk artists in the Kutztown area include John Lyons and the Blue Diamonds, Frog Holler, Dean Smith, Van Wagner, and the Druckenmiller Family (among others).