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Ever since the early 20th Century, politics and folk music have been intertwined. As the labor movement grew in the early 20th century paralleling industrialisation, urbanisation, increased mechanisation and wars, songs advocating political, financial and social reform were born.
We Shall Overcome became linked to the civil rights movement in particular, but others such as Pete Seeger’s Where Have All the Flowers Gone? was anti-war protest song. Phil Ochs’ There But For Fortune was a protest on behalf of the innocent victim of prejudice. Many Dylan songs took on a politico-protest feel, besides Blowin’ in the Wind, such as Masters Of War, Oxford Town, With God On Our Side and Chimes Of Freedom..
People’s Music Network is a global network of musicians who play protest songs, the majority of which sing drawing on folk traditions and styles. British singer Billy Bragg, although usually described as an alternative rock musician and left-wing activist, draws heavily from the well of folk/protest to develop his material.
A relatively short-lived British band (1967-73), formed from inspiration by folk musicians Bert Jansch and John Renbourne. Stylish original material balanced material from folk’s heritage, their unique point was, as explained on their website, ‘delicate acoustic interplay between Jansch and Redbourne brilliantly underscored by Danny Thompson’s sympathetic support and Jacqui McShee’s soaring vocal intonation’.
P is equally for Peter, Paul and Mary, (Peter Yarrow, Noel (Paul) Stookey and Mary Travers) who came together as the witch-hunting era of McCarthyism in the US died away.
Folk was being revived, while many still thought it a footnote to pop. But as the ‘60s dawned with its civil rights/Vietnam struggles, youth and flower power, socio-political arts taking off, the trio reclaimed folk’s potency, as their website affirms.