Folk Rock

Folk rock is a musical genre combining elements of folk music and rock music. In its earliest and narrowest sense, the term referred to a genre that arose in the United States and the UK around the mid-1960s. The genre was pioneered by the Los Angeles band The Byrds, who began playing traditional folk music and Bob Dylan-penned material with rock instrumentation, in a style heavily influenced by The Beatles and other British bands. The term "folk rock" was itself first coined by the U.S. music press to describe The Byrds' music in June 1965, the same month that the band's debut album was issued. The release of The Byrds' cover version of Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" and its subsequent commercial success initiated the folk rock explosion of the mid-1960s. Dylan himself was also influential on the genre, particularly his recordings with an electric rock band on the Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde albums. Dylan's July 25, 1965 appearance at the Newport Folk Festival with an electric backing band is also considered a pivotal moment in the development of folk rock.

The genre had its antecedents in the American folk music revival, the beat music of The Beatles and other British Invasion bands, The Animals' hit recording of the folk song "The House of the Rising Sun", and the folk-influenced songwriting of The Beau Brummels. In particular, the folk-influence evident in such Beatles' songs as "I'm a Loser" and "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" was very influential on folk rock. The repertoire of most folk rock acts was drawn in part from folk sources but it was also derived from folk-influenced singer-songwriters such as Dylan. Musically, the genre was typified by clear vocal harmonies and a relatively "clean" (effects- and distortion-free) approach to electric instruments, as epitomized by the jangly 12-string guitar sound of The Byrds. This jangly guitar sound was derived from the music of The Searchers and from George Harrison's use of a Rickenbacker 12-string on The Beatles' recordings during 1964 and 1965.

This original incarnation of folk rock led directly to the distinct, eclectic style of electric folk (aka British folk rock) pioneered in the late 1960s by Pentangle, Fairport Convention and Alan Stivell. Inspired by British psychedelic folk and the North-American style of folk rock, Pentangle, Fairport, and other related bands began to incorporate elements of traditional British folk music into their repertoire. Shortly afterwards, Fairport bassist, Ashley Hutchings, formed Steeleye Span with traditionalist folk musicians who wished to incorporate overt rock elements into their music and this, in turn, spawned a number of other variants, including the overtly English folk rock of The Albion Band (also featuring Hutchings) and the more prolific current of Celtic rock.

In a broader sense, folk rock includes later similarly-inspired musical genres and movements in the English-speaking world (and its Celtic and Filipino fringes) and, to a lesser extent, elsewhere in Europe. As with any genre, the borders are difficult to define. Folk rock may lean more toward folk or toward rock in its instrumentation, its playing and vocal style, or its choice of material; while the original genre draws on music of Europe and North America, there is no clear delineation of which folk cultures music might be included as influences. Still, the term is not usually applied to rock music rooted in the blues-based or other African American music (except as mediated through folk revivalists), nor to rock music with Cajun roots, nor to music (especially after about 1980) with non-European folk roots, which is more typically classified as world music.

Read more about Folk Rock:  Regional Varieties

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