Folk Music During the Great Depression

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Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Folk music was an important part of life during the Great Depression. It provided a way for people to express their feelings and share their experiences. The music was a source of comfort and hope for many people.

The Great Depression

The Great Depression was a time of great hardship for many people. One bright spot during this time was the rise of folk music. This music spoke to the experiences of the common man and gave them a way to express their feelings. Folk music also brought people together and helped them to forget their troubles for a little while.

The Great Depression in America

The Great Depression in America began with the stock market crash on October 29, 1929 and ended in 1941. It was the longest and worst economic downturn in the history of the United States. By 1933, when the Great Depression reached its lowest point, about 15 million Americans were unemployed and nearly half of the nation’s banks had failed. The Great Depression had devastating effects on American families. Many people lost their jobs, homes, and savings. Farmers were especially hard hit as crop prices fell sharply. Despite the hardships, however, many Americans found ways to lift their spirits and make the best of a difficult situation.

One way Americans coped with the Great Depression was by listening to music. The music of the periodreflects the despair of the times but also the hope that things would get better. Folk music, in particular, became popular as people identified with its simple melodies and lyrics about everyday life. Songs about hard times and lost love were particularly popular during the Great Depression. One of the most famous singers of folk music during this time was Woody Guthrie. His song “This Land Is Your Land” is now an American standard.

The Great Depression in Europe

The worldwide Great Depression of the early 1930s was a social and economic shock that left millions of Canadians unemployed, homeless and struggling to survive. On October 29, 1929 – Black Tuesday – the stock market crashed, setting off a chain of events that would plunge the world into war.

In Europe, the Great Depression began shortly after the stock market crash of October 1929 in the United States and lasted until the early 1940s. It was the longest and deepest economic downturn in European history. By 1933, unemployment in Britain had reached 22 percent, France 17 percent, Germany 30 percent and Poland a staggering 85 percent.

The Great Depression had a devastating effect on agriculture. Farm incomes fell by 50 percent in the United States, Canada and Australia; in Europe, they dropped by as much as 80 percent. The drop in farm incomes led to a decline in demand for farm products, which further hurt farmers. In some countries, such as the United States, government programs helped farmers by paying them not to plant certain crops. This reduced supply and helped to raise prices.

The Great Depression also led to increases in taxes and decreases in government spending. This combination made it difficult for people to find jobs and get out of debt. In Germany, tax revenues fell by 50 percent between 1929 and 1932. In Britain, they declined by 30 percent. Government spending also fell during this period: In Germany it decreased by 20 percent; in France 10 percent; and in Britain 7 percent.(1)

1) “The Great Depression.” History Channel Website. 2009

Folk Music During the Great Depression

Folk music during the great depression served as a way for people to cope with the economic hardship they were experiencing. The music was often about the struggles people were facing and the hope for a better future. The music was a way for people to connect with each other and share their experiences.


During the Great Depression, American folk music was widely heard on the radio and in motion picture soundtracks. American folk music often reflects the hardships of the everyday lives of common people. The songs may express their disillusionment with government, as well as their hope for a better future. Folk music often tells stories of hard times and loss, but also of love and hope.


Folk music in Europe was shaped by many factors, including the country’s history and geography. The Celtic peoples, who lived in Ireland and Scotland, were known for their love of music and dance, and they left a lasting impression on the folk music of Europe. The Celts were also known for their oral tradition, which helped to preserve their music over the centuries.

The Middle Ages were a time of great change for Europe, and this is reflected in the folk music of the time. During this period, there was a great deal of interaction between the various cultures of Europe, and this is reflected in the musical exchange that took place. For example, the troubadours of France influenced the music of Italy, and vice versa.

The Renaissance was another period of great change for Europe, and this is reflected in the folk music of the time. This was a time when there was a renewed interest in classical antiquity, and this is reflected in the music of the period. The Renaissance also saw the rise of nationalism, and this is reflected in the folk music of countries like Italy and Spain.

The Industrial Revolution had a significant impact on European folk music. This was a time when new technologies were introduced that changed the way people lived and worked. This is reflected in the songs that were written about these changes. The Industrial Revolution also led to urbanization, and this is reflected in songs about life in the cities.

The twentieth century was a time of great upheaval for Europe, and this is reflected in its folk music. The two World Wars had a profound impact on European society, and this is reflected in many songs about these conflicts. Other important events from this period include the Russian Revolution, which inspired many songs about freedom; and the rise of communism, which led to songs about workers’ rights.

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