Folk music lyrics represent traditional song of the
common people of any given region. In the most traditional sense,
folk music lyrics are those that have not been affected by commercialization
and mass communication.
Folk music lyrics are sung, spoken or rapped and communicated orally
and passed down from one generation to the next in oral tradition.
In a less traditional sense, folk music lyrics have become a genre
that is a part of popular music, brought to light by the likes of
Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and Bob
In a general sense, folk music relies more heavily on the lyrics
that it does on the accompanying sounds or instrumentation. Folk
music lyrics are made up of meaningful words and phrases that reflect
current events of the culture.
Narrative verse is often seen in folk music lyrics, which is a
shorter form of epic poetry that goes back as far as the times in
which the great blind poet Homer lived and wrote. In the beginning
of its existence, folk music lyrics described battles, natural disasters
and other tragedies that the common people had to endure.
Laments for lives lost in battles and war provided much of the
content for folk music lyrics. Remember the dead and why the war
was waged in the first place also provided much content.
Some old songs also featured local heroes such as Robin Hood, mysterious
deaths or supernatural events. Christmas carols and religious hymns
also were derived from folk songs and passed around from mouth-to-mouth.
Over the years, folk music lyrics would evolve and split in two
different directions. Traditional folk songs would survive, yet
popular folk music would come on the seen in the 1950's and 1960's.
Commercialization of folk music and lyrics would gall the traditionalists,
yet a new listening audience emerged as singers would write music
such as protest songs to in response to such current happenings
as the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement. Bob Dylan and
Joan Baez would voice the concerns of the common people over a government
seen as out of touch with the will of the people.
Acerbic lyrics and calls to action would be incorporated with more
traditional melodies performed with acoustic guitar and sometimes
less than eloquent vocals. Folk would then go onto influence rock
and country music and some even see Rap music as a kind of inner-city
folk music with lyrics centering on contemporary issues such as
violence that harkens back to the traditional folk music lyrics
of Homer's time.