The Best 1970s Folk Music Songs

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


The best 1970s folk music songs were often about love, loss, and protest. Here are ten of the most iconic tracks from the genre.


The 1970s were a golden era for folk music, with many artists achieving mainstream success. This was due in part to the popularity of singer-songwriter festivals such as Folkestone and Glastonbury, which helped to raise the profile of the genre.

Some of the best-known folk songs of the 1970s include “The Times They Are A-Changin’” by Bob Dylan, “Love Will Keep Us Together” by Simon and Garfunkel, and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot. Other hugely successful songs from the decade include “Lay Down Sally” by Eric Clapton, “Leaving on a Jet Plane” by John Denver, and “Killing Me Softly with His Song” by Roberta Flack.

While many of these songs were huge hits in the 1970s, they have since gone on to become timeless classics that are still enjoyed by millions of people around the world.

The Best Folk Songs of the 1970s

The 1970s was a great decade for folk music. Many artists emerged during this time and created some of the best folk songs of all time. Here are some of the best folk songs of the 1970s.

“The Times They Are A-Changin'” by Bob Dylan

“The Times They Are A-Changin'” is a song written by Bob Dylan and released as the title track of his 1964 album of the same name. Dylan wrote the song as an attempt to capture the spirit of social and political upheaval that he observed in the early 1960s. The song rapidly achieved cult status and became one of Dylan’s most influential compositions. It has been recorded by many artists and has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked it as number 31 on their list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. In 2006, the song was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress as “culturally, historically, or artistically significant”.

“The Weight” by The Band

“The Weight” is a song written by Robbie Robertson and originally recorded by Canadian-American group the Band in 1968. The song was released as a single in 1969 and became a hit, reaching No. 21 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart and No. 3 on the Easy Listening chart. It was also a hit in Canada, reaching No. 16 on the RPM 100 national singles chart. “The Weight” has been covered by numerous artists, including Jackie DeShannon, Aretha Franklin, Bobby Darin, Richie Havens, Jesse Winchester, Levon Helm, Delaney & Bonnie, Joe Cocker, gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, Shirley Bassey, Jackie Lomax , Mavis Staples , Judy Collins , Nina Simone , Jim Croce , the Blues Brothers , Dolly Parton , Emmylou Harris Bob Dylan and many others.

In 2004, Rolling Stone rated “The Weight” the 41st greatest song of all time; in October 2011, the magazine ranked it No. 111 on its list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.

“The Boxer” by Simon & Garfunkel

“The Boxer” is a song by Simon & Garfunkel, released as the lead single from their fifth studio album, Bridge over Troubled Water, in early 1970. The song peaked at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and number one on the Adult Contemporary chart in the United States. In the United Kingdom, “The Boxer” reached number nine on the UK Singles Chart. The duo wrote and composed the song with additional input from producer Roy Halee.

The lyrics of “The Boxer” tell the story of a young man who leaves his home to seek success in the city. The young man is followed by his dog, who remains loyal to him despite the hardships he faces. The song reflects Simon’s own experiences as a young musician struggling to make it in New York City.

Critics have praised “The Boxer” for its lyrics, melody, and Simon’s vocal performance. The song has been covered by numerous artists, including Emmylou Harris, Johnny Cash, and Bob Dylan. In 1999, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) listed “The Boxer” as one of Songs of the Century.

“The Streets of Philadelphia” by Bruce Springsteen

“The Streets of Philadelphia” is a song by American singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen for the 1993 film Philadelphia. It was written and produced by Springsteen and Patti Smith, recorded with The E Street Band in May 1993, and released as a single in February 1994. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked it #435 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

The song won the Academy Award for Best Original Song at the 67th Academy Awards in 1995, as well as the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song. It was also nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or Television.

“Leaving on a Jet Plane” by John Denver

Sad and wistful, “Leaving on a Jet Plane” is a song about a lover who is about to go away on a long journey. John Denver wrote the song in 1966, but it wasn’t released until 1969. The song became a huge hit in 1970, reaching the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.


In conclusion, the best 1970s folk music songs are a varied and eclectic bunch. From protest anthems to delicate love songs, there is something for everyone in this list. What is your favorite 1970s folk song?

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