Second to singer/songwriters, duos and collaborations between two people characterize some of the greatest folk music from American history. One creative mind can have a lasting effect. But two minds working together can make something magical that seems to last forever.
This list of some of the great duos in American folk music history include some duos whose collaborations have lasted years, and others whose work has just spanned a couple of projects.
and Art Garfunkel met while they were still in high school, and began performing as a duo under the pseudonym Tom & Jerry. Their first hit in 1957 was a song called, "Hey Schoolgirl." Seven years later, the duo scored a record contract with Columbia records, who renamed them Simon & Garfunkel. Together, they released a handful of unforgettably influential albums, including their classic, Bridge Over Troubled Water
and Cisco weren't just musical collaborators, they were also great friends and traveling companions. Woody collaborated with a number of other folksingers during his lifetime, but for some reason, his collaborations with Houston have been more greatly preserved. Houston's sweet harmonies blended perfectly with Guthrie's Okie twang, and the personalities of the two men complemented each other in a way that helped the songs they sang together come across as timeless classic masterpieces.
3. Bob Dylan & Joan BaezBob Dylan
and Joan Baez
would have enjoyed extreme popularity any way you sliced it, but in the early 1960s, the two groundbreakers teamed up for several folk festival appearances and tours. Each time they took the stage together, the audience could do nothing but sit in awe. Between Bob's gut-punching lyrics and Joan's sweet, clear soprano, Dylan & Baez seemed like a match made in heaven.
Amy Ray and Emily Saliers met while they were in elementary school, and by the time they had recorded their first demo in Amy's basement in 1981, they had developed a small following in their hometown of Decatur, GA. It was 1989, however, when the duo released their song, "Closer to Fine," that the Indigo Girls had solidified their place in folk-pop history. Their lush, contrapuntal harmonies are their greatest asset, and have distinguished them from their predecessors.
As two members of the Almanac Singers, Woody Guthrie
and Pete Seeger
created some timeless, unforgettable folk music. The Alamanac Singers, and more specifically Seeger and Guthrie, have stood up as one of the most ground-breaking groups in the history of American folk music. With a strong social conscience and catchy, sing-along-able folk songs, the musical marriage of Seeger & Guthrie helped to inspire and influence many other folk artists.
Shortly after Tracy Grammer moved to Portland, Oregon, she ran into songwriter/guitarist Dave Carter at a songwriters' showcase. By early 1998, they had developed a strong and beautiful musical relationship. They recorded their first album, When I Go
in Grammer's kitchen, and were signed to Signature Sounds two years later. After Carter's death in 2002 from a heart attack, Grammer continued to tour the country on her own, paying tribute to Carter and his incredible music.
When Ani DiFranco
joined together with Utah Phillips
for the first time in 1996, she took years of Phillips' tapes of his live performances, and set his stories to her music. The result was an album of timeless, poignant stories and poems that brought DiFranco's younger generation of fans together with Phillips' more traditional roots. The pair teamed up again in 1999, when the Ani DiFranco Band backed Phillips up for a live album called Fellow Workers
The Nields sisters grew up singing folk songs. In the 80s, they hooked up with a guitarist, drummer, and bass player. Together, the band released two albums and toured the country. In 1998, the sisters began playing shows without their backup band. Their first "solo" album Love and China
in 2001 received the acclaim and praise of critics and fans. The Nields sisters' lovely harmonies and earnest, lyrical love songs have made them a major draw at folk clubs and festivals.
grew up playing bluegrass music in Los Angeles; but when she moved to Boston to attend the Berklee College of Music, she met guitarist David Rawlings, whom she began dating. In 1992, the duo moved to Nashville, where they began turning heads with their collaborative efforts. Welch's honest songs, inspired by gospel, bluegrass, and old time rock and roll, together with Rawlings' incredibly dexterous guitar skills have made them one of the best contemporary folk duos around.
10. Johnny Cash & June CarterJohnny Cash and June Carter both had deep roots in old country and folk music. Separately, they were two great musicians in their own right, but it was their collaboration that helped to solidify their place in the hearts and minds of country, folk, and rock fans alike. Cash's bad boy image and Carter's goody-goody reputation offered a stark contrast; but their voices together, and the Carter-composed Cash hit "Ring of Fire," earned them a place in folk duo/collaborator history.