The 1960s was a time of great change and upheaval in the Western world. Against the backdrop of war, progressive ideals, and economic crises, folk and rock music had a child called folk rock. If you’ve ever wondered about early forms of rock music, keep reading to find out more about folk rock, its history, and its lasting legacy.
Folk Rock in the Mid-1960s
Developed in both the United States and the United Kingdom, folk rock is a hybrid of rock and folk music, which underwent a revival in the 1960s. Both styles influenced each other. Folk rock’s rise started with the rise of folk music in the 1960s. A blend of traditional styles and new techniques, it was associated with left-wing politics and progressive ideology.
Bob Dylan’s pop success is part of why protest songs were brought into the mainstream. He was one of the first folk rock singer-songwriters, a concept that was and is a big part of folk rock.
Joan Baez was also influential in the sound’s development. Her work started off as a mix of folk music and blues. This prolific artist was actually responsible for introducing audiences to Dylan. Throughout her career, she was known for her socially conscious songs. The protest music scene would not have been as successful without her help.
Electric instruments were a major development in the sound, yet purists were outraged when Dylan adopted them late in 1965. It was inevitable that this trend would continue, and many other bands adopted it to their music.
The Development of Folk Rock
California was a big center for folk rock, and a major band that contributed to this was The Mamas & the Papas. From 1965 to the next three years they defined folk rock. They also used electric instruments.
A high point for the genre was the popularity of “Mr. Tambourine Man” in 1965. It was performed by The Byrds, but the song was actually by Dylan. The Byrds were another California band that melded folk rock and country rock.
On the East Coast of America, Simon and Garfunkel carried the torch and further defined the sound. In Britain, influences from America manifested themselves in a mix of English folk music and the new electric instruments. The Albion Band and Pentangle were two major names in the British folk rock movement. They brought a distinct sound to the movement and made it popular across the Atlantic.
Folk Rock’s Influence
By the end of 1968 folk rock’s heyday had passed, but not without influencing artists that would follow. Many of the genre’s prolific artists started to develop their sound into a mix of other styles, country rock, especially.
Taking the long view of the genre, the blending of these two distinct but harmonious styles has had a lasting impact on rock. It survives today in the idea of the singer-songwriter and the authentic, rootsy music of many artists.