Millennium Folk: American Folk Music Since the Sixties

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Folk music has been a part of American culture for centuries, and it has undergone a revival in recent decades. Millennium Folk: American Folk Music Since the Sixties explores the history and evolution of this genre, and showcases some of the best folk music of the past fifty years.

The Sixties

The sixties were a decade of change and upheaval. In the United States, the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement reached a fever pitch, while young people across the country rebelled against the conservative values of their elders. This spirit of rebellion was reflected in the music of the time, which ranged from the gentle protest songs of Bob Dylan to the angry anthems of the Vietnam War era.

The Newport Folk Festivals

The Newport Folk Festivals of the 1960s are often considered the most influential in the history of American folk music. It was at Newport that Bob Dylan first went electric, creating a sensation that would change the course of popular music. Dylan wasn’t the only one to make a mark at Newport; it was also the launching pad for the careers of Joan Baez, Peter, Paul & Mary, and many other folk artists who would come to define the sound of the 1960s.

The Weavers

The Weavers were an American folk music quartet, formed in 1948 in New York City. They are best known for popularizing many songs of the 1960s, including “If I Had a Hammer” (composed by fellow group member Pete Seeger) and “Turn! Turn! Turn!”, as well as for “Kisses Sweeter than Wine” and “Midnight Special”, both charting singles that became hits in the early 1960s. The group was one of the most successful folk groups of the 1950s and early 1960s.

The Weavers were formed in October 1948 by Ronnie Gilbert, Lee Hays, Fred Hellerman, and Pete Seeger. They took their name from The Wedding Guest, a play by Harold Brighouse that had been produced in New York City earlier that year. The name was suggested by Gilbert, who noted that one of the play’s characters was named Weaver.

The group’s repertoire originally consisted mostly of traditional folk songs and material drawn from the work of Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly. In 1950, they released their first album, The Weavers at Carnegie Hall, which included their rendition of Lead Belly’s “Goodnight, Irene”. The album was a surprise hit, reaching No. 2 on Billboard magazine’s pop album chart (it would ultimately sell over a million copies).

Joan Baez

Joan Baez is a renowned American folk singer and songwriter who became famous in the 1960s for her work in the civil rights and anti-war movements. Her music has been incredibly influential, helping to popularize both folk and protest music in the United States. In addition to her work as a musician, Baez is also a dedicated activist, working on behalf of causes like human rights, environmentalism, and non-violence.

The Seventies

The Rise of Singer-Songwriters

The early seventies were a fertile period for American folk music. The singer-songwriter phenomenon that had begun in the late sixties continued to grow, and many of the biggest names in folk music were releasing some of their best work during this time. The popularity of country-rock also helped to bring folk music to a wider audience, and many folk artists began experimenting with this new sound.

The singer-songwriter movement is often associated with the counterculture of the sixties, but many of the most successful singer-songwriters of the seventies came from a different background. James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, and Jackson Browne were all born in the early nineteen-forties, and they came of age in the fifties and early sixties. Their music was shaped by the folk revival of the late fifties and early sixties, but it was also influenced by pop music and jazz.

Taylor and Mitchell were both successful pop musicians before they turned to folk music. Browne began his career as a member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, a country-rock group that had its roots in the folk revival. All three artists brought a unique perspective to the singer-songwriter genre, and their success helped to legitimize it in the eyes of the mainstream music industry.

The seventies were also a golden age for country-rock. The Byrds had ignited the genre with their groundbreaking album Sweetheart of the Rodeo in 1968, and bands like The Flying Burrito Brothers and Poco were carrying on their legacy in the early seventies. Country-rock fused together two very different musical traditions, and it appealed to both country fans and rock fans. The Grateful Dead were also experimenting with country-rock during this period, incorporating elements of bluegrass into their unique style of psychedelic rock.

Many traditional folk artists also found success in the seventies. Joan Baez scored her biggest hit with Diamonds & Rust, an album that featured both original songs and covers of Bob Dylan classics. Judy Collins had a string of successful albums during this decade, including Wildflowers andhuanta hanta Battered Woma

The Newgrass Movement

The Newgrass Movement was a style of music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It was a fusion of traditional bluegrass music with elements of rock, jazz, and country. The Newgrass Movement was led by pioneering bands such as the Grateful Dead, the Allman Brothers Band, and New Grass Revival.

The Folk Revival in Britain

During the Second World War, Britain had been invaded and occupied by the Nazis for five long years. In 1945, when the war finally ended, the country was in a state of devastation. People were tired, poor, and hungry. They needed something to lift their spirits and make them forget their troubles. Music did that for them

The Eighties and Nineties

The eighties and nineties were a turbulent time in American politics and culture, and folk music was no exception. The eighties saw the rise of the neoconservative movement and the associated Reaganomics economic policies. These changes had a profound impact on the folk music scene. In the nineties, the folk music scene was more fragmented, with a variety of different subgenres and subcultures emerging.

The Rise of World Music

In the late eighties and early nineties, global communications and transportation became increasingly accessible and affordable, which led to a boom in world music. Musicians from all over the globe were able to share their music with wider audiences than ever before, and world music began to have a significant impact on the American folk scene. New works by artists such as Habib Koité, Susana Baca, Toumani Diabaté, and Ravi Shankar brought fresh sounds and perspectives to the American folk tradition.

The Americana Movement

The more eclectic and inclusive approach to folk music that began in the sixties continued to develop in the eighties and nineties. This period saw the rise of the “Americana” movement, which brought together artists from various genres—including country, rock, blues, and folk—under the umbrella of American roots music.

One of the most important figures in the Americana movement was Texas singer-songwriter Steve Earle. Earle emerged on the country music scene in the late seventies with a traditional style that harkened back to Hank Williams and other classic country artists. But by the early eighties, he had begun to explore different musical idioms, infusing his songs with elements of rock, blues, and even soul. In 1986, he released his breakthrough album Guitar Town, which featured a diverse array of musical styles and earned him comparisons to Bob Dylan.

Earle was not the only artist who was expanding the definition of American roots music. In the nineties, groups like Wilco and The Jayhawks helped to lead a “alt-country” movement that infused traditional country sounds with alternative rock sensibilities. And singers like Lucinda Williams and Mary Gauthier were carrying on the rich tradition of American songwriting with their deeply personal and emotionally resonant lyrics.

The Grunge Movement

The punk movement of the late seventies and early eighties had a major influence on the American folk music scene. One of the most significant subgenres to emerge from this period was grunge. Grunge is a type of rock music that is characterised by its dark and often angry lyrics, heavily distorted guitars, and its DIY ethic.

The grunge movement began in Seattle, Washington in the late eighties and was spearheaded by bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden. Grunge quickly gained popularity throughout the United States and by the early nineties had become a global phenomenon. The success of grunge was largely due to its appeal to disaffected youth who related to the music’s dark and angsty lyrics.

Grunge ended up having a lasting impact on American folk music, with many folk musicians incorporating elements of grunge into their sound. The popularity of grunge also helped to revitalise interest in traditional folk music, with many young people becoming interested in the genre as a result of hearing grunge bands that were inspired by it.

The New Millennium

American Folk music has been around since the sixties and has seen a resurgence in recent years. The new millennium has seen a new generation of American Folk musicians. This article will take a look at some of the most popular American Folk musicians of the new millennium.

The Rise of Indie Folk

Although the American folk music revival began in the late 1940s and early 1950s, it reached its greatest prominence in the 1960s with the rise of singer-songwriters like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Woody Guthrie. However, by the end of the decade, the countercultural movement had begun to fragment, and folk music fell out of favor with many young people.

In the 1980s and 1990s, there was a resurgence of interest in American folk music, led by a new generation of performers like Bruce Springsteen, Emmylou Harris and Mary Chapin Carpenter. This renewed interest led to the formation of independent record labels devoted to releasing folk music, as well as a new wave of “indie folk” bands influenced by traditional folk but not limited to any particular genre.

The 21st century has seen a continued growth in the popularity of American folk music, with artists like The Decemberists, Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver becoming mainstream successes. At the same time, traditional folk musicians like Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie have continued to perform and record new material, ensuring that this rich musical tradition will be passed down to future generations.

The Folk Revival in Europe

Folk music had been around for centuries, but it wasn’t until the mid-20th century that it started to gain popularity in the United States. In the 1950s, a new generation of American folk musicians began to experiment with the traditional music of their ancestors, incorporating elements of jazz and blues. This new style of folk music became known as the “folk revival.”

The folk revival reached its height in the 1960s, when a number of young singers and songwriters began to write protest songs about social and political issues. These songs were widely heard on the radio and at live events, and they helped to raise awareness of the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, and other important causes.

In the 1970s and 1980s, folk music fell out of favor in the United States, but it continued to be popular in Europe. In Britain, Ireland, and Scandinavia, traditional folk music was mixed with elements of rock and pop to create a new style known as “folk rock.” This style was popularized by bands such as Fairport Convention, Pentangle, and Steeleye Span.

Today, folk music is once again gaining popularity in the United States. A new generation of musicians is reinterpreting traditional songs for a modern audience, and folk festivals are being held in

The Newgrass Revival

The newgrass movement of the 1970s built on the innovations of figures like Bill Monroe and Lester Flatt, adding elements of rock, jazz, and classical music to create a more complex sound while remaining true to the bluegrass tradition. The band that is most closely associated with this movement is the Newgrass Revival, which was founded in 1971 by mandolinist Sam Bush, banjoist Béla Fleck, and guitarist Courtney Johnson. The Newgrass Revival was hugely influential in its day, helping to bring bluegrass music to a new generation of listeners.

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