While there are many great and timeless folk singers, there are a few who really stand out against time. Though there are well too many to include here, the most influential have been included. Everyone may have a different opinion on who should be on this list, feel welcome to leave your suggestions in the comments below. Now sit back, and remember some of these greats.
Woody Guthrie has been credited as being the grand daddy to folk. Woody was born in Okemah OK and grew up during times of the depression and poverty. Through out his childhood his family dealt with numerous fires and illness. Once Woody got to be a bit older, he hit the railways, jumping box cars in search of adventure and work. He made some great songs such as ‘this land is your land’ and ‘vigilante man.’ Though he is no longer living, he still continues to inspire people today just as he did while he was alive. Through his music and words, he will never be forgotten.
Pete Seeger falls straight into the folk grand daddy classification along with Woody. It is no surprise they were also friends. Pete was born in Manhattan, Ny in May of 1919. He would go on to join the folk super group the Almanac Singers. This group also consisted of Woody and a few other core members that would go on to start the Weavers along with Pete. Seeger remains a vital man in folk music and activism. His mastered style of banjo along with his home grown vocals make the man himself a work of art. It is noted he mentored some of the greatest people in music, along with Bob Dylan who will also be seen on this list. Pete Seeger with celebrate his 94th birthday soon, and hopefully a few more after that. Let’s face it, the man is a national treasure.
Again, Leadbelly is a founder of folk and blues as we know it. Leadbelly to no surprise was also pals with Woody. Leadbelly was born in 1888 in Louisiana, he was born under the name of Huddie William Leadbetter and would later go on to be called simply Leadbelly. His music spans through time and has also gone on to influence some very famous folk singers as well. That’s no surprise for a man who’s music was so good, his songs once got him out of jail for accused murder.
You had to know this one was coming. Bob Dylan is one of the most influential singers of all time, and has been influenced by nearly everyone on this list himself. Bob was born in Duluth Minnesota in 1941. He was born under the name Robert Allen Zimmerman, but later changed it to simply Bob Dylan. Bob went to New York City in 1960 and started playing the coffee houses and gaining connections. His connections must have been some good ones since he went on to become a living legend by 1969. He is also responsible for inspiring many other great artists, such as Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen. He is also credited with introducing the Beatles to weed. It’s easy to say that without Bob Dylan music as we know it would’ve been a very different thing, not a very good thing either.
Joan Baez just possibly may be the queen of folk music. Joan was born in Staten Island in 1941, she was born to an activist mother who would later influence her to get into activism as well. Joan started playing guitar at around 16 years old and as an adult would hold an amazing early career as one of the greatest folk singers of her time. She is also linked to Bob Dylan, they were once romantically linked and were also singing buddies and friends. Joan is no doubt influential, and still continues being so today. She also remains very active in activism, and still believes that ‘we shall overcome.’
Neil Young was born in 1945 in Canada, as he grew he would later join the band that would become Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Little do many know, he played the Woodstock festival with them, but told the camera man that if he were filmed that he would hit him over the head with his guitar. Neil would later leave that band to start a solo career, which has been serving him well since. He is also active in activism and is working on creating the Lincvolt, a Lincoln that runs on clean energy. Neil is not only a great folk singer but also a great man, father, activist and rock musician as well. He has penned well too many great songs to even name a few.