still? wonders Norman Warwick

The term Folk Rock, when first coined as a term for a genre of  music that was probably much more inclusive than it seemed at the time  wasn´t then, and is perhaps even less  now, everyone´s favourite jam in a sandwich. I could live then with songs like Guadite fitting into the box, as groups like Steeleye Span arguably benefitted from a new categorisation that brought them closer to the mainstream than folk alone could have ever done.

Much as I dislike categorisation for marketing purposes I know that when I am trying to describe a certain band or music to new audiences I have a responsibility to give them clues as to where we are heading.

However, if you’re someone who has only heard major hits in the folk rock genre that don’t hold up to modern music in your mind, you may just be listening to the wrong kind of folk rock.

When I found  an article in American Songwriter that named what the magazine deemed to be four of the top folk rock songs of all time, I thought it would remind me of tracks I might cite as examples to those new to folk rock. The songs are of my generation, (a baby boomer), and I have had all of them at one time or another on my playlists. I´m not sure I ever categorised them as folk rock, and neither do I remembering anyone else titling them as such.

Let’s take a look at the four examples of what American Songwriter suggest you listen to if you don’t really like folk rock!

Their first choice  was written by Stephen Stills and recorded with his band Buffalo Springfield in the winter of 1966. This was pre Byrds and CSNY, of course, and it had a hit chorus of  Stop, Hey, What´s That Sound, Everybody Look What´s Going Down, and it became a surprising hit, reaching no. 7 on the charts within a few months. The band itself wasn’t around for long. But, its members went on to found folk rock bands of their own as well as solo careers. Their song,  For What It’s Worth is Neil Young, Stephen Stills, Richie Furay, and Jim Messina at their very best for a reason

Like A Rolling Stone is a great representation of  Bob Dylan at his protesting peak in 1965. It was inspired by a Hank Williams song, as well as an idea Dylan had for a short story. The result was one of the most iconic folk rock songs of all time that eventually came to define the genre.

Another protest song in the folk rock genre, Ohio is one of Neil Young’s best pieces of song-writing. The track itself was inspired by the infamous Kent State murders in which four student protestors were shot by the Ohio State National Guard. The trauma of the incident affected the entire nation, including Young. It was banned for debuting anti-Nixon lyrics, which is honestly more than enough reason to listen to it.

Eve Of Destruction by Barry McGuire was yet another protest song. But so much of folk rock is rooted in its anti-establishment and anti-war sentiments; it only makes sense for the best songs in the genre to also be protest songs. Recorded in 1965, this Barry McGuire song hasn’t gotten as much love as the other songs on this list. It’s an underrated classic that has all the elements of a good folk rock song: killer guitar riffs, a distinct voice, and a message that makes you think.

Is there less to protest about these days? I remember how urgent I felt all this was back in my teenage days in nineteen sixties England. My generation might still see the end of this old world: the threat of nuclear war is perhaps higher than ever. Our governors and politicians seeM as graphic as the politicians of sixty years ago who drew such forceful protests from the public. We are the generation of great speakers / singers like Tom Paxton, Ralph McTell, Joan Baez but whilst so much has been read and said about their pleas and messages, has anything really changed.

For what its worth we are left with a couple of valid questions. Has peaceful protest ever changed anything, and did Folk Rock exist as a music or a voice?

Are we leaner, cleaner, greener. Its been sixty years, and its time we stopped, hey, what´s that sound,  and everybody look what´s going down!  

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.