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Folk rock fused the commercial folk tradition of the early 1960s with the rock songcraft best exemplified by the Beatles. Its most notable features included the eclectic blending of electric and acoustic instruments, group harmonies, and poetic--often political with a pronounced anti-establishment mesage--song lyrics. The genre, which reached its commercial and artistic zenith for a brief period during 1965-1966, was a product of experiments by young urban folk interpreters such as Bob Dylan, Jim (later Roger) McGuinn, and Barry McGuire. These, other performers, also incorporated the work of topical/protest singer/songwriters including Phil Ochs, Tom Paxton, Eric Andersen, Buffy Saint-Marie, Tim Hardin, Janis Ian, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, and Jackson Browne. The keynote of the movement was rebellion--rebellion against a wide range of social mores, the anti-commercial snobbery of the urban folk movement (e.g., the organizers of the Newport Folk Festival who were scandalized by Dylan's use of an electric support band in 1965), and their own pretentions regarding the moral and aesthetic values of traditional music.

Folk rock became a national obsession when the Byrds' cover of a Dylan composition, "Mr. Tambourine Man," reached number one on the pop singles charts in the early summer of 1965. This was followed by Sonny and Cher's "I Got You Babe" and Dylan's own "Like a Rolling Stone." During this era, however, artists were disinclined to stay in one place. For a brief moment, pop stars found they could pursue art while also cultivating monetary success and a large following. As a result, the studio experiments of the Beatles and like-minded artists pulled folk rockers toward the progressive rock vanguard. By mid-1966, folk rock was little more than a lingering memory. Nevertheless, it left a substantial imprint upon the pop world, influencing country rock, the singer/songwriter movement, the softer side of psychedelia, and various regional sounds such as San Francisco rock and Tex-Mex.

Folk rock continued to thrive abroad, in England and the Commonwealth countries. Beginning with Donovan's blend of Dylanesque lyrics and exotic instrumentation, British folk rock evolved back to an emphasis on home-grown song material. This folk material was typically framed by electric instruments and a rock steady beat. Spurred by the virtuostic talents of bands like Fairport Convention, Pentangle, and Steeleye Span, British folk rock thrived for more than a decade beginning in the late1960s; many of the musicians originally part of the movement remain active today.


Top Artists and Their Recordings

Buffalo Springfield—Buffalo Springfield (1966); Again (1967); Last Time Around (1968)

The Byrds--Mr. Tambourine Man (1965); Turn! Turn! Turn! (1965); Fifth Dimension (1966); Younger Than Yesterday (1967); Notorious Byrd Brothers (1967)

Bob Dylan--Bringing It All Back Home (1965); Highway 61 Revisited (1965); Blonde on Blonde (1966); John Wesley Harding (1967)

The Fugs--First Album (1965). The Fugs (1966); Tenderness Junction (1968); It Crawled Into My Hand, Honest (1968)

The Holy Modal Rounders--Indian War Whoop (1967); Holy Modal Rounders, Vol. 1 (1968); Holy Modal Rounders, Vol. 2 (1968); Moray Eels Eat the Holy Modal Rounders (1969)

Jim Kweskin Jug Band--Best of the Jim Kweskin Jug Band (1968)

Lovin' Spoonful--Do You Believe in Magic (1965); Daydream (1966); Hums of the Lovin' Spoonful (1966); Everything Playing (1967)

The Mamas and the Papas--If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears (1966); The Mamas and the Papas (1966); Deliver (1967)

Barry McGuire--Eve of Destruction (1965); This Precious Time (1966)

Simon and Garfunkel--Sounds of Silence (1966); Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme (1966); Bookends (1968)

Sonny and Cher--Look at Us (1965); The Wondrous World of Sonny and Cher (1966); In Case You're in Love (1967)

The Turtles--It Ain't Me Babe (1965); You Baby (1966); Happy Together (1967)

British Folk Rock

Sandy Denny--Fotheringay (1970); Sandy Denny (1970); The Northstar Grassman and the Ravens (1971); Sandy (1972); Rock On (1972); Like an Old Fashioned Waltz (1973)

Donovan--Catch the Wind (1965); Fairytale (1965); Sunshine Superman (1966); Mellow Yellow (1966); For Little Ones (1967); Wear Your Love Like Heaven (1967); Donovan in Concert (1968); The Hurdy Gurdy Man (1968)

Fairport Convention--Fairport Convention (1968); What We Did on Our Holidays (1968); Heyday (1968); Unhalfbricking (1969); Liege and Lief (1969); Full House (1970); Angel Delight (1971); Babbacombe Lee (1972)

The Incredible String Band--The Incredible String Band (1966); The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion (1967); The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter (1967); Wee Tam (1968); The Big Huge (1968); Changing Horses (1969); I Looked Up (1970); U (1970); Be Glad for the Song Has No Ending (1970)

Ian Matthews--Matthews Southern Comfort (1970); Second Spring (1970); Later That Same Year (1971); If You Saw Thro' My Eyes (1972); Tigers Will Survive (1972); Valley Hi (1973); Some Days You Eat the Bear...and Some Days the Bear Eats You (1974)

Pentangle--The Pentangle (1968); Sweet Child (1969); Basket of Light (1970); Cruel Sister (1971); Reflection (1971); Solomon's Seal (1972); Pentangling (1973)

Steeleye Span--Hark! The Village Wait (1970); Please to See the King (1971); Ten Man Mop (1971); Below the Salt (1972); Parcel of Rogues (1973); Now We Are Six (1974); Commoner's Crown (1975); All Around My Hat (1975)

The Strawbs--Strawbs (1969); Dragonfly (1970); Just a Collection of Antiques and Curios (1970); From the Witchwood (1971); Grave New World (1972)

Australian Folk Rock

The Seekers--Georgy Girl (1967); The Seekers' Greatest Hits (1967)