Folk Music Lyrics

Folk music lyrics represent traditional song of the common people of any given region. In the most traditional sense, folk music lyrics are those that have not been affected by commercialization and mass communication.

Folk music lyrics are sung, spoken or rapped and communicated orally and passed down from one generation to the next in oral tradition. In a less traditional sense, folk music lyrics have become a genre that is a part of popular music, brought to light by the likes of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan.

In a general sense, folk music relies more heavily on the lyrics that it does on the accompanying sounds or instrumentation. Folk music lyrics are made up of meaningful words and phrases that reflect current events of the culture.

Narrative verse is often seen in folk music lyrics, which is a shorter form of epic poetry that goes back as far as the times in which the great blind poet Homer lived and wrote. In the beginning of its existence, folk music lyrics described battles, natural disasters and other tragedies that the common people had to endure.

Laments for lives lost in battles and war provided much of the content for folk music lyrics. Remember the dead and why the war was waged in the first place also provided much content.

Some old songs also featured local heroes such as Robin Hood, mysterious deaths or supernatural events. Christmas carols and religious hymns also were derived from folk songs and passed around from mouth-to-mouth.

Over the years, folk music lyrics would evolve and split in two different directions. Traditional folk songs would survive, yet popular folk music would come on the seen in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Commercialization of folk music and lyrics would gall the traditionalists, yet a new listening audience emerged as singers would write music such as protest songs to in response to such current happenings as the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement. Bob Dylan and Joan Baez would voice the concerns of the common people over a government seen as out of touch with the will of the people.

Acerbic lyrics and calls to action would be incorporated with more traditional melodies performed with acoustic guitar and sometimes less than eloquent vocals. Folk would then go onto influence rock and country music and some even see Rap music as a kind of inner-city folk music with lyrics centering on contemporary issues such as violence that harkens back to the traditional folk music lyrics of Homer’s time.