"THAT'S NICE, BUT IS IT A FOLK SONG?"

No TWO PEOPLE, not even the professors, have been able to agree completely on a definition of folk music. The Funk & Wagnalls Dictionary of Folklore lists many, which only partly overlap each other.
One definition says: "A folk song must be old, carried on for generations by people who have had no contact with urban arts and influence. A folk song must show no trace of individual authorship."
At the other end is the definition of the late Big Bill Broonzy, the blues singer. He was asked if a certain blues he sang was a folk song. "It must be," he replied, "I never heard horses sing it."

Face it: folk traditions will change as the folks who inhabit this earth change. The real traditional folk singer, who lived in past centuries and learned and sang his songs within a small folk community, sang a song because he thought it was a good song, not because he thought it was old.
Likewise, most sensible guitar pickers and singers today sing a song because they feel it is a good song, not because they have previously screened it to be sure it is traditional. The person who beats his breast and says "I will sing nothing but a folk song" is either fooling himself or trying to fool someone else.

Pete Seeger, The Incompleat Folksinger,
New York, NY, 1972, p. 62.


 

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LAST UPDATED: Jul 01, 2000

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The aftermath of the Ludlow Massacre, 1914.
The terrible "beauty" of the atom bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, 1945.
 
Welcome to my "Folk Archive (History in Song)" Pages. This site was first launched on Oct 20, 1997, re-launched in July 2000, and will remain under major construction for quite a long time...

These pages of (mostly) song lyrics owe their existence to an American Studies class taught by Dr. Heiner Bus at Johannes-Gutenberg- University, Mainz, Germany in the mid-1970s. While going through my collected papers these days, I was struck by the sheer number of song lyrics pertaining to the various stages of American history which had been collected by Dr. Bus and ourselves (his students) at that time -- and since a lot of these papers became yellowed and faded over the last 20 years, I decided to preserve some of them, transcribe them into HTML-format and eventually include them all on these pages.

All material on these pages is presented for the purpose of study, research, and critical analysis, only.
Not in all cases, the exact source and/or possible copyright owners could be determined. If you, as an artist or copyright owner, should object to some of your material being presented here, it will be removed upon request.

Many of the Midi files on these pages were sequenced by Werner Tomaschewski, who has his own excellent site dedicated to Stephen Foster and 19th century American music, and who kindly allowed me the use of his files on these pages.

Lately, I have also started to archive some of my recordings as MP3s (encoded with VBR, LAME codec). None of these MP3s are for sale.

If you have additional information, comments, criticism, or corrections please send me an email

Updates will be sporadically announced in Usenet groups rec.music.folk, rec.music.country.oldtime or rec.music.dylan.