American Folk Music

American Folk music, which is also known as Americana, consists of a very wide range of musical styles, including Bluegrass, country music, gospel, old time music, jug bands, Appalachian folk, blues, and Cajun. It is also known as roots music, as the American Folk music led to the development of many other forms of music which are very popular today, including rock and roll, the blues and jazz.

Many roots musicians do not consider themselves to be folk musicians, the main stated difference being that roots musicians deal with a slightly broader range of music. The roots musicians were the most popular in the first two to three decades of the 20th century, in great part due to the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl.  The growth of the music recording industry at the time also helped. By the 1950s, roots music had taken on more of a pop-like sound and the Nashville sound of country music was developed and became popular. Many artists, rather than wanting to be named as being a singer of one particular category, categorized themselves as roots singers due to the broadness of the genre.

By the 1950s, it was true Americana, or Folk music, which had become extremely popular. Young people everywhere clamored to get a piece of the famous folk artists such as Woody Guthrie.  True Folk music really did begin at its regular roots. Woody Guthrie performed songs his mother sang to him when he was a young boy, the true definition of Folk. By the 1960s, it was an absolute phenomenon. Folk music was everywhere. Bands tried to honor and reproduce the traditional Folk music sang by artists in the 1950s. By the end of the 60s, however, there was a different turn taken by Folk music artists. They began to sing their Folk songs and adding scholarly references and philosophies into their works. This led to the popular actions of later Folk music which took a political turn: artists spoke out in their songs against the War in Vietnam and against the pro-capitalist, anti-communist stance of the government, as well as in support of many liberal ideas such as the American Civil Rights movement.

However, in the mid-70s, the popularity of Folk music died out once again, and only a few staunch supporters remained until its mini-revival once again in the late 1990s. Folk musicians and roots musicians have had a significant impact on many types of music which are incredibly popular in the United States today. They truly were the foundations of an art form which is one of the most popular forms of entertainment for young people. They’ve spoken about everything, from the traditions of the old country to the injustices to Americans and Vietnamese in Vietnam. Folk music remnants have lingered in many types of music around the United States, and even today there are Folk festivals all over the world celebrating American Folk music.