Singing Out: An Oral History of America's Folk Music Revivals

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Intimate, anecdotal, and spell-binding, Singing Out offers a fascinating oral history of the North American folk music revivals and folk music. Culled from more than 150 interviews recorded from 1976 to 2006, this captivating story spans seven decades and cuts across a wide swath of generations and perspectives, shedding light on the musical, political, and social aspects of this movement. The narrators highlight many of the major folk revival figures, including Pete Seeger, Bernice Reagon, Phil Ochs, Mary Travers, Don McLean, Judy Collins, Arlo Guthrie, Ry Cooder, and Holly Near. Together they tell the stories of such musical groups as the Composers' Collective, the Almanac Singers, People's Songs, the Weavers, the New Lost City Ramblers, and the Freedom Singers. Folklorists, musicians, musicologists, writers, activists, and aficionados reveal not only what happened during the folk revivals, but what it meant to those personally and passionately involved. For everyone who ever picked up a guitar, fiddle, or banjo, this will be a book to give and cherish. Extensive notes, bibliography, and discography, plus a photo section.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In this entry in Oxford's "Oral History" series, Dunaway (How Can I Keep from Singing? The Ballad of Pete Seeger) and essayist Beer excerpt and contextualize more than 150 interviews conducted primarily in the mid- to late 1970s and in 2006–07 with some of American folk music's leading lights, including Pete Seeger (who also contributes a foreword), Ry Cooder, and Arlo Guthrie. The book traces the history and development of American folk music from the collectors of the early 20th century to young musicians who draw as much inspiration from YouTube as from open jams. Dunaway and Beer highlight three distinct revivals, discussing their social and cultural roots and their legacies, such as movement music and folk rock. American folk music's complex ties to the Civil Rights Movement receive due attention. VERDICT This intriguing history of American folk music in the 20th century by its performers and participants will appeal to academics, folk music aficionados, and musicians.—Genevieve Williams, Pacific Lutheran Univ. Lib., Tacoma
From the Publisher

"The authors have spent quite a bit of time addressing the critical, interesting, and important question: 'What is folk music?' Defining folk music is not only difficult and complex, it's slipperier than a greased eel! Through the use of extensive quotes and interviews Beer and Dunaway revisit the folk revival head-on, causing me to rethink the role individuals as diverse as Tristam Coffin, Pete Seeger, Mississippi John Hurt played during this important period in American music history." --Kip Lornell, The George Washington University, author of The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to American Folk Music, Introducing American Folk Music, and The Life and Legend of Leadbelly (with Charles K. Wolfe)

"Dunaway and Beer's Singing Out is a marvelous stew of original quotations mixed with the editors' astute discussions of the historical contexts. Drawing upon a broad array of musicians, academics, collectors, and writers, they have covered the twentieth century into the twenty-first, with some focus on the importance of protest/political songs. This is now the starting place for any understanding of the role of folk music in American society, and should spawn future studies, particularly dealing with the post-1970s period." --Ronald D. Cohen, author of Rainbow Quest: The Folk Music Revival and American Society, 1940-1970

"This intriguing history of American folk music in the 20th century by its performers and participants will appeal to academics, folk music aficionados, and musicians."--Library Journal

"[A] marvelous resource for anyone interested in American folk music."--Booklist

"Fascinating."--Albuquerque Journal

"An important and excellent new book...Uncover[s] the true life of folk music in North America as it progressed through the world-altering twentieth century." --The Journal of Music

"All fans and scholars of folk music and American History will value this study. Highly recommended." --Choice

"I've thoroughly enjoyed this book...It captures vividly the spirit of the musical movement that became so powerful in the 1960s." --Allan M. Winkler, Times Higher Education

"Weaves together historical narrative and excerpts of these interviews to fashion an insightful overview of the American folk music movement." --Sound Historian

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199896561
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 11/1/2011
  • Series: Oxford Oral History Series
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 1,289,387
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

David King Dunaway is the author and editor of eight volumes of history including How Can I Keep From Singing: The Ballad of Pete Seeger, The Pete Seeger Discography, and Oral History: An Interdisciplinary Anthology. His numerous honors include the 2010 Stetson Kennedy Vox Populi award from the Oral History Association. He serves as professor of English at the University of New Mexico and distinguished professor of broadcasting at San Francisco State University.

Molly Beer is the author of numerous essays and articles on culture and culture clash. She has taught writing at the University of New Mexico and at Colgate University as an Olive B. O'Connor creative writing fellow.

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Table of Contents

Foreword by Pete Seeger
Introduction by David King Dunaway
1. I Never Heard A Horse Sing It!: Defining Folk Music
2. Early Collectors
3. Music for the Masses
4. Greenwich Village: 1940s
5. Am I In America?: The Red Scare
6. Folk Boom
7. Movement Music: Civil Rights
8. Folk-Rock
9. Nu Folk
10. The Power of Music
Biographies of Interviewees
Notes on the Interviews
Interview Index

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