American Folk Revival 58-68

Proving there was a time when songcraft and honesty were still a viable means of communication. #folkmusic

People like to remember the 1950’s in a variety of ways. The birth of Rock and Roll, the Space Race, an era of unprecedented economic growth. There was also political strife, segregation and a patriarchal, racist system that attempted to keep the voices of women, Blacks, the LGBTQi community and many other dispossessed populations silent.

Joan Baez on the cover of Time magazine, November 23, 1962. Illustration by Russell Holben.

Seemingly, out of nowhere but bubbling up for decades, was a Folk music explosion that eventually merged with Rock and Roll and Country music to give these voices a mainstream platform. Starting off with the songs of Woody Guthrie and the hard work of the Lomax family on behalf of the Smithsonian, Folk and Blues music, once the territory of poor, rural Whites and Blacks, found a wider audience.

“All of us are subject to being to being passive to the social ills around us. It’s a struggle, not to become, by staying silent, an accomplice.”

Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary.

Kicking off this movement in popular culture was The Kingston Trio, who sang traditional songs from what was considered the public domain about some truly gruesome subjects, including murder and capital punishment. Their single “Tom Dooley” and their LP’s of the era were the biggest sellers by white artists on the Capitol Records label prior to the arrival of the Beatles. Independent Folk label Vanguard found success with a young woman with an amazing soprano voice, Joan Baez. Many of the songs by artists in this movement were also very reflective and pointed statements about civil rights and social injustice.

Barbara Dane at a San Francisco anti-war march in 1964. Photo: Erick Webb.

As labels quickly scoured the landscape for new talent, a young, Jewish folk singer from Minnesota came to New York City to became one of the 1960’s leading songwriters, Bob Dylan. By the mid-1960’s, Folk had become Folk Rock, infuriating some of the more traditional proponents of the music (such as Pete Seeger), with even the Beatles expanding their musical vocabulary with Folk music by 1965’s Rubber Soul.

By the end of the decade, the terms Folk and Folk Rock had fallen out of favor for a new, more introspective and personal movement called Singer/Songwriter, which would proved immensely successful through the mid-1970’s, encompassing more than just folk, but blues, pop and even more progressive rock than had been previously mined.

First Part

  • Tom Dooley, The Kingston Trio
  • Both Sides Now, Judy Collins
  • Midnight Special (live at Newport 1965), Pete Seeger
  • No More Cane On The Brazos, Odetta
  • Black Mountain Blues, Dave Van Ronk
  • There But For Fortune, Joan Baez
  • Outside Of A Small Circle Of Friends, Phil Ochs
  • Reflections In A Crystal Wind, Mimi & Richard Fariña

Second Part

  • Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right, Peter, Paul and Mary
  • Walk Right In, The Rooftop Singers
  • Cocaine Blues, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot
  • You Were On My Mind, We Five
  • Don’t Make Promises, Tim Hardin
  • Baby, I’ve Been Thinking (Society’s Child), Janis Ian
  • Morning Dew, Tim Rose
  • Little Maggie, Barbara Dane


  • Subterranean Homesick Blues, Bob Dylan

Love to you all.

Ben “Bear” Brown Jr., owner
Host, Producer, Audio Engineer and Writer

“Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for ‘fair use’ for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.”