I’ve always had a love for folk music and the 1960s epitomized the era of that musical genre. A guitar, a voice, and a cause were all one needed to make a splash on the music scene. From Greenwich Village to San Francisco, the “folksies” told the story of America with all of its greatness and turmoil. Here are some of the best solo artists the time had to offer.
Where would folk music be without this talented musician. You had to live under a rock not to know Bob Dylan. He was one of the first solo artists to go mainstream with his enigmatic lyrics. Famous for his songs like: Blowing In The Wind, Mr. Tambourine Man, and Like A Rolling Stone, Bob Dylan is still going strong nearly forty years later as a testament to his ability and talent. To find out more about Bob Dylan, take a look at this article I wrote in March of 2011.
Phil Ochs is one of my favorite folk artists of all time. He classified his music as “topical” and I’d have him number one on this list if it didn’t tick off all of the Dylan fans. You might not even know of Phil Ochs. He wasn’t as mainstream as Dylan or the others on this list. He only had a couple of hits, but his music was on the pulse of the student movement. Phil Ochs was everywhere in the 1960s and early 70s: Newport Folk Festivals, Chicago Democratic Convention, Carnegie Hall, the New York Underground, Chile, and San Francisco. If you look online you will see that many of his songs have been redone by other stars. A documentary was released last year on his life called “There But For Fortune” – the title of one of his songs. Some of Ochs’ hits included: I Ain’t Gonna March No More, Outside A Small Circle Of Friends, and Draft Dodger’s Rag. He committed suicide in 1976. If you’ve never heard of him, I highly recommend you listen to his music.
Joan Baez started singing in the Boston area where she gathered a following in the early 60s. She was extremely popular, performing at the Newport Folk Festival and Woodstock. She is famous for such songs as Phil Ochs’ There But For Fortune, Joe Hill, We Shall Overcome, and the Band’s The Night They Drove Ol’ Dixie Down. She has had a prolific career. She’s been performing since 1958 and putting out over 30 albums in eight different languages. Today, at the age of 70, she is still performing.
If Bob Dylan is the “King of Folk Music”, then Pete Seeger is the “Emperor”. He’s been around most of the 20th century and is still steaming along in the 21st. He was gracing the airwaves of radio during the 1940s and sang with “The Weavers” in the 1950s. Most folk singers on this list were influenced by Pete Seeger. Some of his songs include: “Goodnight Irene“, “If I Had A Hammer“, “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?“, and “Wimoweh” (You know this one as ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’). Seeger is still going strong at age of 92.
I always get Joni Mitchell confused with Judi Collins, another great folk singer of the period. This Canadian folk singer showed up late in America during the 1960s. Her first album debuted here in 1968, but she was well-established north of the border. They same some of the same songs, but I am going to have to go with Joni Mitchell for this list. Mitchell influenced other musicians such as: Led Zeppelin, Ani DiFranco, Tori Amos, and Sheryl Crow. Some of her hit songs were: Both Sides, Now; Woodstock; and Big Yellow Taxi. She was last seen on the public stage at the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.