American folk musicians Here are a few lists I have compiled of whom I believe are prominent early (pre-1950s), revival (1950s/1960s) and modern (late 20th Century onwards) American folk musicians. I know it isn't definitive, but I've tried my hardest to list who I believe are notable contributors - alongside the unnamed but imperative American people themselves - in changing social and political climates, cultural terms, and history itself.

Regarding the "early folk" list: Many of the musicians listed are from a variety music genres other than folk, including blues, old-time and spiritual music. This is because, amalgamated, they have all contributed significantly to American folk. Also, it was difficult to listing all prominent musicians during this era because:

  1. Folk musicians were not usually represented as popular individuals, but rather as part of a larger community;
  2. The huge variety of folk musicians - almost every American - particularly in hardship - had a song to sing;
  3. They predate a time when folk music culture was commercially "popular", and so is harder to locate;
  4. Many didn't professionally record music, so their versions of folksongs are often unavailable to a wider audience.

Early folk (see notes above)
pre- and early 20th Century
  • Almanac Singers, the
  • Bailey, DeFord
  • Big Bill Broonzy
  • Big Joe Williams
  • Blind Boy Fuller
  • Blind Lemon Jefferson
  • Blind Willie Johnson
  • Blind Willie McTell
  • Boggs, Moran Lee "Dock"
  • Cannon, Gus
  • Cannon's Jug Stompers
  • Carter Family, the
  • Charters, Samuel
  • Cunningham, Sis
  • Falcon, Joe and Cleoma
  • Fiddlin' John Carson
  • Fisk Jubilee Singers
  • Foster, Stephen
  • Guthrie, Woody
  • Hampton Singers, the
  • Hill, Joe
  • Houston, Cisco
  • Ives, Burl
  • Johnson, Robert
  • Johnson, Tommy
  • Lead Belly
  • Lewis, Furry
  • Lunsford, Bascom Lamar
  • McGhee, Brownie
  • Memphis Jug Band
  • Mississippi John Hurt
  • Mississippi Sheiks, the
  • Monroe, Bill
  • Patton, Charley
  • Rev. Gary Davis
  • Robeson, Paul
  • Rodgers, Jimmie
  • Scruggs, Earl
  • Seeger, Pete
  • Skip James
  • Smith, Bessie
  • Son House
  • Sonny Terry
  • Tampa Red
  • Uncle Dave Macon
  • Washington Phillips
  • Weavers, the
  • Williams, Hank
  • White, Bukka
  • White, Josh
1950s/60s Folk Revival
mid- and midlate 20th Century
  • Baez, Joan
  • Belafonte, Harry
  • Brand, Oscar
  • Byrds, the
  • Cahn, Rolf
  • Chandler, Len
  • Collins, Judy
  • Dalton, Karen
  • Dylan, Bob
  • Elliot, Ramblin' Jack
  • Fahey, John
  • Farina, Mimi Baez
  • Farina, Richard
  • Gibson, Bob
  • Greenbriar Boys, the
  • Guthrie, Arlo
  • Hammond, John
  • Hardin, Tim
  • Havens, Richie
  • Henske, Judy
  • Hester, Carolyn
  • Ian & Sylvia (Tyson)
  • Kingston Trio, the
  • Kottke, Leo
  • La Farge, Peter
  • Lightfoot, Gordon
  • Limelighters, the
  • Mahal, Taj
  • Mitchell, Joni
  • Neil, Fred
  • New Lost City Ramblers
  • Ochs, Phil
  • Odetta
  • Paxton, Tom
  • Peter, Paul & Mary
  • Phillips, Utah
  • Prine, John
  • Ritchie, Jean
  • van Ronk, Dave
  • Rush, Tom
  • Sainte-Marie, Buffy
  • von Schmidt, Eric
  • Sebastian, John
  • Seeger, Mike
  • Seeger, Pete
  • Simon & Garfunkel
  • Simone, Nina
  • Spoelstra, Mark
  • Turner, Gil
  • Washington, Jackie
  • Watson, Doc
  • van Zandt, Townes
Modern, contemporary
late 20th Century onwards
  • Alarik, Scott
  • Banhart, Devendra
  • Bird, Andrew *
  • Cry Cry Cry
  • Eberhardt, Cliff
  • Gorka, John
  • Iron & Wine *
  • Keb' Mo'
  • Krauss, Allison
  • Lavin, Christine
  • MacRae, Travis
  • Muldaur, Maria
  • Nadler, Marissa *
  • Newsom, Joanna
  • Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
  • Olabelle
  • Oldham, Will
  • Raitt, Bonnie
  • Riley, Steve
  • Ritter, Josh
  • Skaggs, Ricky
  • Stevens, Sufjan
  • Ward, M. *
  • Welch, Gillian
  • Williams, Dar
  • Williams, Lucinda
* Is this really a "folk" musician?

I want real, prominent, modern American folk musicians - not just quiet acoustic music, guitar in hand with scruffy attire and mumbling words - something that speaks for people, about people, and makes you think folk music; if you would like to assist me in compiling this part of the list, do feel free to contact me. :) I feel as if the mainstream direction has turned towards something more individual and surreal rather than communal and earthly, meshing with the whole singer/songwriter and psychedelia from the late 1960s. Such musicians are also popular internationally, whereas the popularity of modern, rural folk musicians are less so; thus it's often hard to pin down rural folk musicians amongst the neo/psych/indie/anti- folk movements. Melody is now more experimental than rural; lyrics change consequently, to cushion the new experimental sound. I know, I know: the times, they are a-changin'...

... I'm old-fashioned, I know.
See also

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