Political Folk Music in America from Its Origins to Bob Dylan


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About the Book

Many American folk singers have tried to leave their world a better place by writing songs of social protest. Musicians like Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, and Joan Baez sang with fierce moral voices to transform what they saw as an uncaring society. But the personal tales of these guitar-toting idealists were often more tangled than the comparatively pure vision their art would suggest. Many singers produced work in the midst of personal failure and deeply troubled relationships, and under the influence of radical ideas and organizations. This provocative work examines both the long tradition of folk music in its American political context and the lives of those troubadours who wrote its most enduring songs.

About the Author(s)

Lawrence J. Epstein has written extensively on the history of comedy teams and the influence of Jewish humor in America. From 1974 to 2008 he was a professor of English at Suffolk County Community College in New York.

Bibliographic Details

Lawrence J. Epstein
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 213
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2010
pISBN: 978-0-7864-4862-3
eISBN: 978-0-7864-5601-7
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      ix
Preface      1

ONE — Music from the Mountains: The Birth of Popular Folk Music      9
TWO — Music from the Gutter: Joe Hill and the Roots of Twentieth-Century Political Music      19
THREE — Hard Luck Days: Woody Guthrie’s America      33
FOUR — Which Side Are You On? The Left Discovers Folk Music      46
FIVE — The Endless Hootenanny: The Birth of the Folk Song Movement      76
SIX — Are You Now or Have You Ever Been…? The Folk Singers Under Attack      97
SEVEN — The Great Folk Scare: The Revival of Folk Music      124
EIGHT — The Runaway Prophet: Bob Dylan’s Romance with Folk Music      142
NINE — The Very Sound of Hope: The Legacy of the Sad-Eyed Prophets      177

Chapter Notes      185
References      189
Index      199