What Do You Truly Know About Folk Music?

We’ve heard before the upbringing of the folk music genre. How it is sung by the people, and not normally recored in a studio. How no one needs to be a trained musician to take part in the song. Even after being informed of all this, what folk songs can you confidently name off the top of your head? Having trouble? Here are some songs you probably didn’t realize were folklore!

This Land is Your Land - Woodie Guthrie

This song is probably the most common folk song that my generation knows. Anyone born from the 1990s-2001 has most definitely learned this song in their free time in elementary school, or have heard it being sung once before in a movie. I can assure you they might not remember the lyrics to the song very much, but the melody at least will forever be ingrained into their memory. I understand that this artist is not a person of color, but I am simply using this folk song as a bridge between the gap of our knowledge of what folk music truly is.

Amazing Grace - Odetta

This gem is a folk song that one definitely would’ve heard if they grew up in the church. There have been so many renditions of this very song. Usually, in relation to this piece, there is no need for musical instrument accompaniment. Below is a video of Odetta Holmes singing her version of Amazing Grace. If you listen closely, you can hear the congregation singing alongside her.

Bridge over Troubled Water

I am using this next song as a comparison between the European vs. the Afrocentric take on music. Your location in the world definitely plays a major role in the evolution of a folk song, or any song for that matter. Similar to a game we used to play as children titled Telephone, this folk song might’ve started off as something completely different in its creation from what I now present to you. (On the left, Simon and Garfunkel-1970. On the right, Aretha Franklin-1971). These songs may seem completely different at times being that there may be an obvious addition/subtraction of lyrics and the arrangement of those lyrics’ appearances, but they share the same melody when the sing “Like a bridge over troubled water.”

After reading this blog, where is your current understanding of folk music?