If you aren’t devoid of all your senses you’ll know that, thanks to artists such as Laura Marling, Johnny Flynn and Mumford and Sons, the music industry currently has its checkbook primed for folk; the new genre du jour. But where did folk come from? To help answer, here is a brief history of this ancient and often miss-categorised genre.

1. In the Beginning

Early folk has its roots in the traditional songs of any culture and is traceable around the world. From Auld Langsyne to Down By The Riverside it begins as communal music, circulated through word-of-mouth and typically associated with the working classes.

2. Sowing the Seed

The historical recordings of ethnomusicologists such as John and Alan Lomax fuel the American folk movement of the mid-20th century. The genre becomes mildly commercialised as singers begin writing original material.

3. A Change Comes

The left-wing politics of early pioneers influence the protest movement and singers of the 1960s, namely Bob Dylan, who becomes folk’s first superstar. Then, by combining folk with rock ‘n’ roll, Dylan controversially “goes electric” and kick-starts the folk-rock movement.

5. A Lesson In Survival

Following the disillusionment of the 60s protest movement, folk turns introspective and becomes concerned with personal issues rather than politics. Solo singer/songwriters achieve success with minimal instrumentation, as the electric world marches on into prog-rock and beyond.

6. The Great Leap Forward

Paul Simon brings international folk (world music) into the mainstream; Billy Bragg employs folk’s protest ideology and numerous others keep the genre alive until today’s new-folk movement.

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