Discovering Folk Music

Discovering Folk Music

Discovering Folk Music

Discovering Folk Music


From indigenous music to Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen singing "This Land Is Your Land" side-by-side at the pre-inaugural concert for our first African American president, folk music has been at the center of America's history. Thomas Jefferson wooed his bride-to-be with fiddle playing. Stephen Foster captured the mood of our country in transition. The Carter Family adapted music from across the pond to Appalachia. Paul Robeson carried folk music of many lands to the world stage. Woody Guthrie's dust bowl ballads spoke to the common man, while Sixties protest music put folk on the map, following the Kingston Trio's hit, "Tom Dooley."

Folk music has evolved with America's changing landscape, celebrating its multi-cultural traditions. From Irish step dancers to rap, parlor songs to Dixieland, blues to classical, Discovering Folk Music presents the genre as surprisingly diverse, every bit the product of our national melting pot.

Demonstrating continuing relevance of folk music in our everyday lives, the book spotlights an amazing array of personalities, with special emphasis on the folk revival era when Dylan, Baez, Odetta, and Peter, Paul and Mary sang out. These and others influenced such contemporary performers as Shawn Colvin and Ani DiFranco. Those on today's "fringes of folk" scene continue to look to these deep roots while embracing alternative sounds.

Included are interviews with such legendary artists as Janis Ian, Tom Paxton, and Jean Ritchie. Nora Guthrie, Woody's daughter, also weighs in. Discovering Folk Music is a ground-breaking look at 21st-century folk music in our rapidly changing digital world, family friendly while ripe for rediscovery by the Woodstock generation.


January 18, 2009. The Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC. Pete Seeger, just shy of his 90th birthday, accompanied by the iconic Bruce Springsteen, is leading hundreds of thousands of people amassed along the mall in singing “This Land Is Your Land” during the preinaugural concert, guest-of-honor Presidentelect Barack Obama singing along. Nowhere could the words of Woody Guthrie have been more moving, more inspiring, more meaningful to Americans as we looked toward an unprecedented era in American history.

Folk music. There it was, front and center, on this country’s most important stage.

When it was announced in 2006 that Bruce Springsteen was about to release a CD entitled We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, inspired by songs from the repertoire of folk singer-activist Pete Seeger, there were mixed reactions—from both the Springsteen camp and folk music fans. Not surprising was the view some die-hard rock and rollers took, that “The Boss” was selling out, abandoning the music that put him on the global map.

On the other side were in-the-know folk enthusiasts who questioned the choice of material for The Seeger Sessions as perhaps not folk enough, politically charged material lacking, a horn section beefing up the punch, and renditions that were more hard-driving than folk music is generally perceived to be. Yet most in the folk community at minimum stood by the project for its quality presentation and arrangements and for, at the very least, providing entrée for nonfolk fans to the genre. In fact, it went on to take home that year’s Grammy Award in the Best Traditional Folk album category.

What an interesting—and appropriate—situation for folk music to be in. In a completely different setting, a media sensation was created by brothers Gregg and Evan Spiridellis, when they offered comic relief during the 2004 . . .

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