A Theory

I was thinking about the Folk Revival in the US and possible causes. It occurred to me that, if you date it as starting in the fifties, it isn’t a coincidence that it would happen as the development of the interstate highways system and the internal movement following WW II. I theorize that bringing more people into contact with unfamiliar local culture and traditions would lead to an interest in documenting or preserving those traditions.

Before I thought about it I would have said that the interest in local culture was a response to the rise of a more national culture — radio, movies, etc. I think that’s part of the story, but, upon examination, that transition started in the 20s and 30s, which leads me to think that transportation and the mixing and movement of people during and after the war were more important.

Comments? It sounds reasonable to me, but it’s just inference.

  1. Josh K-sky’s avatar

    Interesting. Add to the mix the way that blues makes its way across the country, especially starting the journey from rural to urban, in the Great Migration of the 1910s-1930s. “I’d rather be a lamppost in Chicago than the Governor of Mississippi.”


  2. RS’s avatar


    An interesting idea — and question.

    I think you could think of the folk revival starting earlier. Carl Sandburg’s song collection, The American Songbag, was a very influential collection of folk songs and it came out in 1927.

    Some of the Lomax folk song cellections — like the one of cowboy songs — also came out around that time.

    There were lots of folk song collections that were put together for singing around the piano.

    I will loan you a copy of My Song is My Weapon. It has an interesting slice of the history of the popular revival of folk song that connects it directly to political movements: it was a version that made sense to me.



  3. nebulousomen6518.snack.ws’s avatar

    I couldn’t refrain from commenting. Perfectly written!



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