The end of New York City's Folk Music Revival
June 23rd, 2015 -
New York City was the centre of a folk music revival in the middle of the 20th century. It effectively began in the late 1930s-early 40s, when singers like Woody Guthrie and Burl Ives moved to Greenwich Village, drawn downtown by the increasingly progressive political and cultural climate.
Folk transitioned from traditional art form to a popularised movement in the 1950s with the arrival of Pete Seeger, Fred Neil, Dave van Ronk, Odetta and many others. The concentration of coffee houses, small venues, and like-minded bohemian attitudes in Greenwich Village spawned an egalitarian atmosphere that attracted many young people from around America to New York City. It became widely regarded as something of a utopia for those looking to escape the prescriptively clean, stable living of post-war America.
Among those drawn to New York was, of course, a twenty-year old Bob Dylan. Dylan found a home in the village, and it was there that he really began to hone his trade. By 1963, Dylan had well and truly put Greenwich Village and the folk music revival on the map. Not that it hadn't already entered public consciousness through the likes of Seeger, Baez etcetera. But Dylan brought global recognition to the lower quarter of Manhattan island, in turn solidifying a significant place for the folk movement amid American history.
The Museum of the City of New York is currently showcasing the vibrant history of American folk from the mid-30s up until the Dylan explosion of the early 60s. The exhibition boasts an impressive array of artefacts, including:
- Lead Belly's 12 string guitar.
- Odetta's iconic, "Baby", along with one of her Dashikis.
- The original handwritten manuscript of Bob Dylan's "Blowin' In The Wind".
- The napkin on which Eric Anderson wrote his "Thirsty Boots" lyrics.
- Phil Ochs' trademark felt cap.
- Handwritten letters by Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie.
If you're in New York be sure to head down and check out the exhibition. If not, well perhaps it's time for a bit of a folk binge in the comfort of your living room. After all, May-June 1965 arguably marked the end of the folk revival--with Bringing It All Back Home, Dylan steered the ship in a new, electric direction. So, why not have a listening session to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of New York's folk music revival? You've earned it, mates.
Listen below to tracks from some of the artists featured.
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