Unlike Negro Spirituals that are sacred, Folk Music is secular. It is derived from rural Black life. Folk music utilizes instruments like the banjo, self made percussion instruments that include stomping and patting, and guitars. Many of the songs created by folk artist were appropriated and then recorded by whites, so the original artist was rarely compensated if at all. Folk would go on to have a very big influence on the blues.
Some Black folk artist include Huddie Ledbetter known as “Lead Belly” as mentioned on the class website, along with Odetta and Nina Simone. Huddie Letter is most notable for his influence on Black folk music by integrating the genre with others like gospel and blues. Some examples of his work are “Goodnight, Irene” and “Midnight Special”. “Goodnight, Irene” was inspired by a complicated relationship Ledbetter had with his lover, named Irene. This is reflective through the blues feel of the song. Odetta’s style of folk music is most influenced by the Civil Rights Era. She used her music as a form of activism to spread a message centered around adopting nonviolent approaches toward demanding justice for African- americans. She is even often dubbed as the “voice of the civil rights movement”. Along with creating her own music she adapted well known songs like “This Little Light of Mine” and “I Know Where I’m Going”.
Ella Jenkins is a more contemporary folk artist. Uniquely, she took African American folk music as well as other folk music and adapted it for children. As a child, my mom would play her in the classroom. I grew up knowing songs like “Jambo,” “Yemayah,” and “The Hi-De-Ho Man.” Ella’s career has spanned over seventy years. At the age of ninety three, she is still performing and releasing music; last year, releasing her album Camp Songs with Ella Jenkins and Friends. Ms. Jenkins continuation of folk music allowed children like me to be exposed to folk music that had somewhat become far removed.