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The musical kaleidoscope of the 1960s: The folk music revival movement

The musical kaleidoscope of the 1960s: The folk music revival movement

Date: 25th August 2023

As the beat groups flourished, the mid-1960s also witnessed a parallel resurgence of folk music. Influenced by American folk artists like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, British folk musicians began exploring traditional songs and acoustic sounds. This movement emphasised storytelling and social commentary, reflecting the changing socio-political landscape of the era.

Notable folk artists:

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan, born Robert Zimmerman, is an American singer-songwriter who became one of the most influential figures in folk music. His introspective and socially conscious songwriting captivated audiences and led to the popularisation of folk protest songs. Dylan's iconic songs, such as Blowin' in the Wind and The Times They Are a-Changin', became anthems of the civil rights and anti-war movements. His distinctive voice, poetic lyrics, and ability to capture the spirit of the times solidified his status as a folk music legend.

Donovan

Donovan, born Donovan Leitch, is a Scottish singer-songwriter known for his melodic and introspective folk songs, and is sometimes called the British Bob Dylan – often by himself! His laid-back style and gentle vocals resonated with audiences during the 1960s folk revival. Hits like Catch the Wind, Sunshine Superman, and Mellow Yellow showcased Donovan's poetic lyricism and catchy melodies. He also embraced elements of psychedelia and incorporated diverse musical influences, in songs like Season of the Witch, making him a versatile and innovative artist of the era.

Fairport Convention

Fairport Convention, formed in 1967, played a pivotal role in the development of British folk rock. Known for their reinterpretation of traditional folk songs, they blended acoustic instruments with electric elements, creating a fresh and dynamic sound. Albums like Liege & Lief and Unhalfbricking established Fairport Convention as pioneers of the genre. Their line-up included talented musicians who would go onto successful solo careers, such as Richard Thompson, Sandy Denny, and Dave Swarbrick, and their contributions continue to inspire generations of folk-rock artists to this day.

Pentangle

Pentangle was a British folk-jazz band that pushed the boundaries of traditional folk music. Formed in 1967, they blended folk, jazz, and blues influences to create a unique sound. The band's virtuosic musicianship, intricate vocal harmonies, and innovative arrangements set them apart. Songs like Light Flight and Basket of Light showcased their fusion of genres and introduced a new dimension to the folk music landscape. Pentangle's musical legacy continues to resonate with their innovative approach and captivating performances, and its individual members – Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Danny Thompson, Terry Cox and Jacqui McShee are all rightly considered to be some of the most influential musicians of the era.

Shirley Collins

Shirley Collins is an English folk singer who played a significant role in the revival of traditional folk music. With her pure and expressive voice, Collins recorded traditional ballads and songs, contributing to the preservation of cultural heritage. Albums like Folk Roots, New Routes (with Davy Graham) and The Power of the True Love Knot highlighted her ability to breathe new life into traditional material and established her as a leading figure in the folk revival movement.

John Martyn

John Martyn was a British singer-songwriter and guitarist who seamlessly blended folk, blues, and jazz elements in his music. Known for his distinctive voice and innovative guitar playing, Martyn's albums like Solid Air and One World showcased his ability to create atmospheric and introspective folk compositions. Martyn's exploration of different genres and incorporation of electronic effects pushed the boundaries of folk music, making him a highly influential figure in the development of progressive folk and the British singer-songwriter tradition.

Nick Drake 

Nick Drake was an English singer-songwriter known for his introspective and hauntingly beautiful folk music. Despite limited commercial success during his lifetime, Drake's albums like Five Leaves Left (released in 1969), Bryter Layter, and Pink Moon showcased his intricate guitar fingerpicking, delicate vocals, and poetic songwriting. His music reflected a deep introspection and a sense of melancholy, exploring themes of solitude, introspection, and nature. Drake's unique guitar style, combined with his delicate vocals and poetic lyricism, created an ethereal and emotionally resonant atmosphere in his music. Though his career was tragically short-lived, his posthumous recognition and influence have solidified his place as one of the most revered and influential folk singer-songwriters of all time, and he has garnered a huge and loyal fanbase in the years since his untimely death in 1974.

This is the second installment of our series delving into the decade and how music transformed through an array of genres. The previous blog in the series can be found here.