The Best of 70’s Folk Music

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Looking for the best of 70’s folk music? Look no further than our comprehensive list of the top performers and albums from the decade.

The Birth of Modern Folk Music

The Weavers

The Weavers were a seminal force in the early days of the modern folk music revival. Formed in 1948, the group helped topopularize traditional folk songs among a wider audience. The Weavers’ rise to prominence came about due to their association with Pete Seeger, who served as the group’s banjo player and arranger.

The Weavers’ sound was built around the distinctive lead vocals of Gordon Jenkins and Lee Hays, with Seeger and Ronnie Gilbert providing harmony vocals. The group’s repertoire consisted primarily of traditional folk songs and standards, which they performed in a lively and accessible style.

The Weavers achieved their greatest commercial success in the 1950s, with a string of hits that included “On Top of Old Smokey,” “Kisses Sweeter than Wine,” and “Goodnight, Irene.” The group’s popularity waned in the 1960s, but they remained an influential force in the folk music scene.

Woody Guthrie

Woody Guthrie is considered by many to be the father of modern folk music. His songs, which are often about the working class and championing social justice, have become anthems for generations of Americans. Born in 1903 in Oklahoma, Guthrie was raised in a family of farmers and laborers. He began his musical career as a teenager, playing in honky-tonks and eventually making his way to New York City. It was there that he began to write songs that would make him famous, including “This Land Is Your Land” and “I Ain’t Got No Home.” In 1940, Guthrie moved to California, where he continued to write and perform songs until his death in 1967.


Arguably the most important figure in the history of folk music, Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter was born in Mooringsport, Louisiana, in 1888. He began playing guitar as a teenager and quickly developed into a brilliant and innovative performer, becoming adept at a wide variety of musical styles including blues, ballads, spirituals, work songs, and popular songs of the day. In 1918 he was convicted of attempted murder and spent several years in prison, where he first began to gain notoriety as a musician. After his release he moved to New York City, where he became a fixture on the Greenwich Village folk scene and quickly developed a large and devoted following. His recordings for John Lomax’s Library of Congress project introduced his music to a wider audience, and in 1944 he signed with algae Records, with whom he enjoyed his greatest commercial success. Lead Belly’s influence can be heard in the work of many of the most important folk and rock musicians of the 20th century, including Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, and Nirvana. He died of Lou Gehrig’s disease in 1949.

The Rise of Folk Music

The 1970s was a decade that saw the rise of folk music. This was in part due to the popularity of the music of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. Folk music became increasingly popular with the youth of the time, who were looking for an alternative to the mainstream music of the time.

Joan Baez

Joan Baez is a folk singer and songwriter who rose to prominence in the 1960s. Her music is often associated with the protests of the time, including the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement. Baez has released more than 30 albums over her career and has frequently collaborated with other musicians, including Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, and Jerry Garcia.

Peter, Paul and Mary

Typically when we think of folk music, we think of the simple acoustic music of the1940s and ‘50s made popular by artists like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger. But in the late 1960s and early ‘70s, a new wave of folk artists emerged who began to experiment with electric instruments and rock & roll rhythms. These artists – including such hugely popular acts as Peter, Paul & Mary, Simon & Garfunkel, and The Byrds – helped to bring folk music to a whole new audience.

Folk music enjoyed a huge resurgence in popularity in the 1970s, thanks in part to the rise of the counterculture movement and the growing political awareness of young people. Folk music spoke to these issues in a way that was both personal and immediate, and it resonated with fans looking for an alternative to the mainstream pop music of the day. Artists like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Phil Ochs were particularly influential in this regard; their songs spoke directly to social and political issues like Vietnam, civil rights, and poverty.

The popularity of folk music in the 1970s led to a new wave of folk-influenced rock bands like Crosby, Stills & Nash; America; The Eagles; Poco; and Firefall. These groups blended elements of folk, country, rock, and pop into a uniquely American sound that was both commercial and critically successful. Folk-rock would go on to have a major impact on subsequent generations of musicians, helping to lay the foundation for genres like alternative rock and adult contemporary.

Simon and Garfunkel

Simon and Garfunkel were briefly a duo in the 1950s before both going on to successful solo careers. They reunited in the early 1970s and released a string of successful albums, including three chart-toppers. Simon and Garfunkel’s music often dealt with themes of alienation, loss, and social commentary, and their biggest hit, “The Sound of Silence,” reflected those themes.

The Resurgence of Folk Music

The 70’s was a decade that many people remember for its unique fashion, music, and political landscape. One genre of music that experienced a resurgence during this time was folk music. Folk music had been popular in the 50’s and 60’s but experienced a decline in the late 60’s. The 70’s brought a new wave of folk musicians who were inspired by the social and political landscape of the time. These musicians brought a new sound to folk music that was influenced by the music of the 60’s but also had a unique twist.

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan is one of the most influential folk musicians of all time. His career began in the early 1960s, and he quickly became a leading voice in the American folk music scene. Dylan’s songs are known for their social and political commentary, and his lyrics have been covered by many other artists. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Dylan’s music underwent a major transformation, as he began to experiment with rock and roll. This period saw the release of some of Dylan’s most famous songs, including “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Lay Lady Lay.” In recent years, Dylan has returned to his folk roots, releasing several albums of traditional folk songs.

The Byrds

The Byrds were an American rock band, formed in Los Angeles, California in 1964. The band underwent multiple lineup changes throughout its existence, with frontman Roger McGuinn (known as Jim McGuinn until mid-1967) remaining the sole consistent member. Although they only managed to attain the huge commercial success of contemporaries like the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and the Rolling Stones for a short period in the mid-1960s, the Byrds were one of the most influential bands of their era.Their signature blend of clear harmony singing and sophisticated arrangements set them apart from other groups of the time and inspired ahost of imitators.

The original five-piece lineup of the Byrds consisted ofJim McGuinn (lead vocals, guitar), Gene Clark (tambourine, vocals), David Crosby (rhythm guitar, vocals), Chris Hillman (bass guitar, vocals), and Michael Clarke (drums). This version of the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

The folk music scene of the 70s was dominated by a few key artists, including Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. This group was formed in 1968 by David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash, all of whom were already well-established singer-songwriters in the folk and rock genres. Young join the group soon after its formation, and they quickly became one of the most successful and influential groups of their time.

Their debut album, “Déjà Vu” topped the charts and won them a Grammy Award for Best New Artist. They followed this up with a string of successful albums and singles, cementing their place as one of the biggest bands of the era. Even today, their music is still hugely popular and continues to inspire new generations of musicians.

The Legacy of Folk Music

Folk music has been around for centuries, with its origins dating back to the medieval era. The term ‘folk music’ was first coined in the 19th century by British musicologist William Chappell. Folk music is typically associated with acoustic instruments, such as the guitar, banjo, and fiddle. It often tells stories of the lives of the people who created it, and has been passed down through generations. The 70s was a revival period for folk music, with artists such as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Joni Mitchell gaining popularity.

The Grateful Dead

The Grateful Dead was an American rock band formed in 1965 in the San Francisco Bay Area. The band was known for its eclectic style, which fused elements of rock, folk, country, jazz, bluegrass, and blues. They are considered one of the most influential bands of the 20th century. The band’s base of operations was in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood during the counterculture movement of the 1960s. The group has also been known for its involvement in the drug culture, particularly LSD.

Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell is one of the most influential and iconic folk musicians of the 20th century. Born in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, in 1943, Mitchell began playing guitar and writing songs as a teenager. She moved to Toronto in 1964, where she met other folk musicians such as Bonnie Raitt and Graham Nash. Her debut album, Songs to a Seagull, was released in 1968 to critical acclaim.

Mitchell’s folky sound and confessional lyrics set her apart from other singer-songwriters of the time. Her 1971 album Blue is often cited as one of the greatest albums of all time. Over the course of her career, she has continued to experiment with different genres, including jazz and pop. Her most recent album, Shine, was released in 2007.

James Taylor

James Taylor is one of the most popular and influential singer-songwriters of his generation. A native of Boston, Massachusetts, Taylor developed a love for music at an early age and began playing the guitar when he was just 12 years old. He rose to fame in the late 1960s with his debut album, “James Taylor”, which featured the hit single “Fire and Rain”. Over the course of his career, Taylor has released more than 20 albums and has sold over 100 million records worldwide. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest singer-songwriters of all time and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.

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