A History of Jazz


Folk Jazz: Tales of Hardship

Early folk jazz is easiest described as the perfect soulful blend of African-American ragtime jazz and Anglo-American traditional folk music. It is music that has been rarely written for profit but rather for purpose and appreciation.

Bob Dylan

Much of the early folk music has been passed down from generation to generation, without being altered. However, multicultural influences from around the globe have had an effect on its evolution

The 1920s
The 1920s, the era of the Great Depression, and much of the 1930s, saw a struggle in America’s workforce for establishing child labor laws and better working conditions. Many factors during this time of hardship gave rise to folk jazz, a way for people to protest against dire conditions and relate their woes to the world. Workers and their families would gather together in halls and churches to sing out their sorrowful messages, feeling encouraged by the music’s power.
Hard times surrounding the crash of the stock market gave birth to Woodie Guthrie, Pete Seger and Jimmie Rodgers, famous artists who used their music as a platform for social protest. It soon became possible to read the severity of social conditions by their music’s fast rise in popularity.

Beyond the 1930s
While the early folk jazz musicians laid the groundwork for standards, this genre was made popular from 1950 through 1970 by such artists as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Jim Buckley, Phil Ochs, Tom Paxton and Bill Spence, who wrote and sang socially pertinent songs.

Bob Dylan probably did the most for folk music, over and above any other artist. Many of his opinions and views were recaptured by the Byrds. He also inspired James Taylor, Simon and Garfunkel, The Mamas and Papas, Cat Stevens, The Turtles, Barry McGuire and Sonny and Cher. As the movement of folk music exploded in America, so it did in Canada. Phenomenal artists such as Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, Bruce Cockburn and Leonard Cohen emerged onto the scene.

Modern Times
Today, folk sounds are appearing in alternative types of music. Its influence is felt in the music of Tom Petty, The Smiths, R.E.M., The Stone Roses and The Bangles. Although folk jazz has experienced its highs and lows in popularity, it has nevertheless remained a strong foundation for musicians.

Many believe that all music can be traced back to folk music. Blues musician Big Bill Broonzy and jazz musician Louis Armstrong have both remarked that every type of music is some form of folk music. And although it may lack the glamor of other varieties, it still claims a significant share of popularity. Folk jazz continues to be active, and folk enthusiasts are still successfully organizing revivals at festivals in the United States, Canada and parts of Europe.