Top 10 Folk Artists of All Time

Folk music is characteristic of each country and normally consists of music which has been brought down through the ages and is connected to the culture and traditions of each country. For the purposes of this list we shall take into consideration artists who are specialists in all types of American Folk Music. You will be surprised as to how many of them achieved a great deal of fame in the popularity charts of music of all types


1. Woody Guthrie:

“This Land is My Land” is considered to be his hallmark song. He wrote for the masses, with simple words and thoughts which seemed to encompass all that the common man was thinking and feeling. He travelled all over the country with migrant workers and encapsulated their experiences and the country’s traditional ballads and lyrics within his songs. He was undoubtedly the most influential folk musician of all times.


2. Bob Dylan:

For over fifty Bob Dylan has been the patriarch of the folk music industry. Songs such as “The times they are a-changing” and “Blowing in the Wind “are all part of his repertoire and even in 2009 he produced a brand new fabulous album “Together through life “. He has performed many types of American folk music including blues, gospel and rock and roll. In 2008, the Pulitzer Prize awarded him a special citation for his “profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power.”


3. Pete Seeger:

“Where all the flowers have gone” and “If I had a hammer” are songs which every folk music aficionado will be familiar with. Pete Seeger, who wrote these songs, has been responsible for the revival of interest in folk music. He has also been a major activist in various fields such as disarmament, environmental issues and civil rights. Many of his songs reflect this activism and have become staples with folk singers worldwide.


4. Joan Baez:

An unusual voice and vocal style which is unique to her, Joan Baez has been very influential in the field of folk music for many years. She has released over 30 albums and even though her music covers all genres of music such as rock and roll and blues, her forte lies in her ability to interpret songs of various songwriters such as Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie and Paul Simon among others.

Baez has performed publicly for over 50 years and has released over 30 albums. Fluent in Spanish as well as in English, she has also recorded songs in at least six other languages. She is regarded as a folk singer, although her music has diversified since she first came into fame, encompassing everything from folk rock and pop to country and gospel music.


5. Peter, Paul & Mary:

America’s most popular folk music group, Peter Paul & Mary began singing together in 1961, broke up to pursue individual careers in 1970 and rejoined in 1978. They have sung songs by all the top folk music lyricists and managed to have most of them on top of the box office lists. Their simple vocal styles and their harmony together have been responsible for their immense success.


6. Joni Mitchell:

Canadian by birth, Joni Mitchell has been a musician and songwriter par excellence. Her 1971album “Blue” is believed to be a personal affirmation of her inner turmoil, and is considered to be one of the most influential music albums of all times. She is counted as one of the greatest songwriters of all times, and many believe that she is the greatest female recording artist of the late 20th century.

Mitchell has deeply influenced fellow musicians in a diverse range of genres, and her work is highly respected by artists across the world. She is quotes as the most important and influential female recording artist of the late  20th century. Rolling Stone called her “one of the greatest songwriters ever.”   Mitchell’s lyrics have been noted for their developed poetics, addressing social and environmental issues alongside individual feelings of romantic longing, confusion, disillusionment and joy.


7. Kingston Trio:

With the ever familiar “Tom Dooley “as a part of their contribution, Kingston Trio are renowned not only for their immense contribution towards reviving folk music in the 1950s but as also the only group to have 4 albums simultaneously at the top of the charts. Another one of their very popular songs was “Scotch & Soda “.


8. Bill Monroe:

The pioneer of the Bluegrass movement in the 1950s, Bill Monroe combined country-western harmonies with bluegrass instruments. He was an immensely talented bandleader, singer, instrumentalist and songwriter. His fortunes went up and down with each revival and downfall of folk music, but later bluegrass music came into it’s own and fans still travel long distances to attend bluegrass music festivals.


9. Ani DeFranco:

A lady with a very unique style of singing and with political leanings to the left, Ani DeFranco has tremendous stage presence and a magical quality to her voice and lyrics. Most of her songs are delivered in a speaking style, and with minimal instrumental back-up. A feminist to the core, she has espoused causes ranging from abortion rights to the Gay movement.


10. Doc Watson:

No list of prominent folk musicians can be complete without the name of Doc Watson. He is a guitarist, songwriter and singer. His flatpicking skills and his knowledge of traditional American music are well known. He has remained true to classic Americana and folk music through his career of over 50 years.


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