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Readers Respond: Who's the Best Folk Singer of All Time?

Responses: 42


American folk music touches so many different styles, making it difficult to nail down the best or most important folk singer of all time. Who's your favorite folk singer of all time? Find out what other readers think, and cast your vote here. Cast your vote


This list ignores the work of some of the best folk musicians. No Nick Drake, Sandy Denny doesn't get a mention for either Fairport or Fotheringay either. Jackson C Frank not included nor is Pentangle, Gordon Lightfoot and Vashti Bunyan. I could go on but I won't. Massive fail.
—Guest Mike

woody guthrie

Sorry I was meaning to include Pete Seeger along with my mention of Woody Guthrie and Ramblin' Jack Elliot.
—Guest sarah r

woody guthrie

As much as I love all the later people, including those still singing/performing, I believe in the roots of it all in persons like Woody, Ramblin' Jack, and all those that lead to the ones we still have today.
—Guest sarah r

Outside America??

What about outside the states? Martin Carthy, Sandy Denny, The Clancy Brothers, Luke Kelly, Fairport Convention, Richard Thompson.... Also Townes Van Zandt is one of the greatest american songwriters regardless of genre.


By Far the best sounding folk group and the most dearing..Peter Paul and I'll miss her wonderful harmony Mary....

Best story teller

Jim Croce's albums were songs of his life experiences, and they were great!
—Guest Dunedawg

Wakeup you people!!

Woody guthrie hands down he is the most influencial folk singer of all time within his music he allways fought the social injustices of his time The True FOLK HERO
—Guest Rob

Missing Artist

John Denver should definitely be on the list along with Jim Croce and Gordon Lightfoot.
—Guest me

It's a no brainer!

Bob Shane of the Kingston Trio, hands down, is the best folk singer of time. His voice has no equal. Second choices would be Harry Belafonte or Paul "Noel" Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary.

'Best Folk Singer' - till now?

As someone who strums guitar and has been known to write the odd song, I'm staggered that anyone wants to categorise the singers of the past. If there really were all those brilliants singers and song-writers around, then I might as well lay back on the sofa and contemplate the peas growing in my garden. Surely, each generation has to believe that all the best music hasn't been written yet; all the best songs haven't been composed; and all the best voices haven't been heard. If not, why bother trying? Come on, people. Let's hear it for the 'Best of Tomorrow'. They need your support.

You missed . . . .

Tom Rush, Lightfoot, Steve Goodman, Shel Silverstein
—Guest kilocycles

who's the best folk singer of all time?

Gordon Lightfoot, hands down... such an amazing talent, enigmatic, and enduring...
—Guest redrockbear

No Need For Hostility

Good riddance Don Weber, you name some worthy names, but Emmylou Harris and Guy Clark belong on the list. I'm sure no one will miss you. I believe that Dave Alvin, Tom Russell, and perhaps Jackson Browne and Fred Eaglesmith are also worthy of consideration. Just because some of their music bleeds over into other categories doesn't mean that their folk contributions are not substantial.

Whats going on here?

I don't understand this list at all. Switch your first page with your fourth and you might be onto something. Townes Van Zandt is the greatest folk songwriter of all-time and Tom Waits, Paul Simon, and Bob Dylan are the greatest American musicians, although Waits can hardly be considered folk. The fact that you have Ben Harper at number three really bewilders me.
—Guest Ethan Thompson

best ever

even bob dylan says the greatest is gordon lightfoot.
—Guest Barry Shanley

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Who's the Best Folk Singer of All Time?

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