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

Responses: 30


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

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

Pete Seeger

So many great singers, some game-changers. I'm not comfortable trying to single out just one person from the Greats.
—Guest michael

A better gauge would be...

A better gauge of the "best" folk singer would be a "list your ten (or 20, or 100...) favorite folk singers of all time" type of ballot. If each person sent their list in, and the lists collated and tallied into a master list, a validation of sorts occurs, and the master list has the power of consensus. That being said and offered as a a suggestion, I would have to vote for Woody Guthrie, who practically re-invented folksinging. I say re-invented because folksinging has centuries, yes centuries of past history. Woody merely brought it into the 20th century, which was the first century to have (a)recorded music (b)convenient worldwide travel (c)radio and television.
—Guest CowboySlim

Kate Wolf

She left us in 1986 but I never heard of her till 2009. Now I can't get her sound and spirit out of my head.
—Guest tomcat

best folk singer

plain and simple phil ochs. even during his short time he played for the masses.
—Guest jim

Bill Schustik

A beautiful baritone voice singing classic traditional American Folk Music; accompanied by wonderful stories about the songs and how they came to us.
—Guest Billy Wetherington

Best Folk Singer

Pete Seeger. I am constantly disappointed that you continually ingore the very existance of one of the greatest folk singer/song writers of all time Pete Seeger. Pete is a contemporary of Woody Guthrie and has done so much to bring about awareness to the plight and pollution of the Hudson River in New York.
—Guest Arianna261@aol.com

Best Folk Singer of All Time

Stan Rogers - The Voice that could stop waves and flag down ships was lost to us much too soon and yet he left us so much in the songs that reach down to our souls. What he could of accomplished is only heightened by the realization of what he did accomplish.
—Guest John Roman

Best folk singer

1) Robert Johnson of MS ("Bury me down by the highway side/ So my ol' evil spirit can catch a Greyhound bus and ride..."), died an untimely death by poison c. 1960; & Phil Ochs--as geat as Dylan if he had lived! ("White boots marching in a yellow land..."), suicide c. 1977.
—Guest J. M. Hague

Best Folk Singer

Bob Dylan from the 1960's thru now. Nobody has done better. Maybe second choice would be Joan Baez

Who's the Best Folk Singer of All Time?

Tom Paxton, to name just one. Others could be Phil Ochs, John Hartford, Sylvia Fricker and on and on.
—Guest John Mark


The comments already listed - abusive and otherwise - show the impossibility of lists like these. That said, here are a few of the best who really belong - Stan Rogers, Loudon Wainwright III, Eliza Gilkyson and Tim O'Brien.

Joan Baez

Listen to her 1976 album Joan Baez in Concert (Live)
—Guest Mike

Cast your vote

Who's the Best Folk Singer of All Time?

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