Background Information About Folk singers and Folk music.
English Minstrel at renaisance Fair
For the purposes of this hub, I consider a folk song to be
primarily a traditional song, passed down from generation to generation
especially in the oral tradition.
The dictionary defines a folksinger as someone who sings folk songs or sings in the style associated with folk songs. Some folksingers have been called balladeers, which are defined as a singer of ballads, since a ballad is defined as a narrative poem, often of folk origin, intended to be sung, and consisting of simple stanzas and usually having a refrain. For our purposes a folksinger and a balladeer appear to be pretty much the same. A secondary meaning of ballad one often hears in pop and country music is: a popular song, especially of a romantic or sentimental nature. We will ignore that meaning here.
One other definition is applicable here. Often a folksinger, especially in the 1960's called themselves minstrels. Minstrels were medieval entertainers who traveled from place to place, especially to sing and recite poetry. They might also be a lyric poet and/or musician. Until recently a minstrel might have been part of a troupe of entertainers made up in blackface and presenting a comic variety show. The later definition is not of too much interest here, but in passing there were contributions to folk music by the minstrel show. Dan Emmett contributed such songs as “Dixie” and what is now known as “Turkey in the straw” among many others.
Also, a trend in the 1960's was for “singer-songwriters” to become known as folksingers. Most notably among these was Bob Dylan, who started out performing traditional song and the songs of an earlier singer songwriter: Woody Guthrie. I do find it odd, any more, to go to a “folk” concert and not hear a single traditional song. Those who grew up in the sixties do seem to feel that everything was invented in that era. However, singer-songwriters have been around for a long time before that. Many singers wrote songs. Gene Autry, for example, wrote and co-wrote a number of songs. “Here Come Santa Claus” was a Christmas song he wrote. Autry did not write “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” but he sang it and it made a lot of money for him. I would, by the way, consider these to be folk songs since they have entered the popular tradition. Recently composed songs such as these can become folk songs but I find it hard to accept that someone just sits down and writes a “folk song.” I think it is the “folk” that eventually decide what is and is not a folk song, not the writer or their fans.
In response to a question about what extent the 1960's boosted folkmusic, Pete Seeger said in a TV interview that the sixties harmed folkmusic rather than helped it. The term folkmusic is not as useful as it used to be. He did say that there are many kinds of folk music that might not be called folkmusic. For example Cajun and Zedico, bluegrass and the kind we are interested in here, songs about outlaws.
This article was originally part of my hub "Heroes, Outlaws and Other Folk." I realized that that hub had far too much material, was cumbersome and hard to read.
Link to Heroes, Outlaws and other Folk
- Heroes, outlaws and other folk
Dick Turpin hero was his name He from Dublin City came --from folk song
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