The North American Folk Music Revival: Nation and Identity in the United States and Canada, 1945–1980  book cover
1st Edition

The North American Folk Music Revival: Nation and Identity in the United States and Canada, 1945–1980

ISBN 9780754657569
Published October 11, 2016 by Routledge
232 Pages

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Book Description

This work represents the first comparative study of the folk revival movement in Anglophone Canada and the United States and combines this with discussion of the way folk music intersected with, and was structured by, conceptions of national affinity and national identity. Based on original archival research carried out principally in Toronto, Washington and Ottawa, it is a thematic, rather than general, study of the movement which has been influenced by various academic disciplines, including history, musicology and folklore. Dr Gillian Mitchell begins with an introduction that provides vital context for the subject by tracing the development of the idea of 'the folk', folklore and folk music since the nineteenth century, and how that idea has been applied in the North American context, before going on to examine links forged by folksong collectors, artists and musicians between folk music and national identity during the early twentieth century. With the 'boom' of the revival in the early sixties came the ways in which the movement in both countries proudly promoted a vision of nation that was inclusive, pluralistic and eclectic. It was a vision which proved compatible with both Canada and America, enabling both countries to explore a diversity of music without exclusiveness or narrowness of focus. It was also closely linked to the idealism of the grassroots political movements of the early 1960s, such as integrationist civil rights, and the early student movement. After 1965 this inclusive vision of nation in folk music began to wane. While the celebrations of the Centennial in Canada led to a re-emphasis on the 'Canadianness' of Canadian folk music, the turbulent events in the United States led many ex-revivalists to turn away from politics and embrace new identities as introspective singer-songwriters. Many of those who remained interested in traditional folk music styles, such as Celtic or Klezmer music, tended to be very insular and conservative in their approach, rather than linking their chosen genre to a wider world of folk music; however, more recent attempts at 'fusion' or 'world' music suggest a return to the eclectic spirit of the 1960s folk revival. Thus, from 1945 to 1980, folk music in Canada and America experienced an evolving and complex relationship with the concepts of nation and national identity. Students will find the book useful as an introduction, not only to key themes in the folk revival, but also to concepts in the study of national identity and to topics in American and Canadian cultural history. Academic specialists will encounter an alternative perspective from the more general, broad approach offered by earlier histories of the folk revival movement.

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Defining the people's songs: national identity and the origins of the North American folk revival to 1958; Visions of diversity: cultural pluralism and the 'great boom' of the folk revival, 1958-65; Folk music and community in 'the village': Greenwich village and Yorkville in the 1960s; The post-revival folk: Canadian dreams and American nightmares in the Late 1960s and 1970s; Folk since the 1970s: diversity and insularity; Conclusion; Bibliography; Selected discography; Index.

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Gillian Mitchell is Lecturer in the Department of History and Welsh History, University of Wales, Bangor, UK.


'This is a highly intelligent book written by someone who has a real sense of the potential of cultural history. Gillian Mitchell's notion that the folk revival was a 'large umbrella' under which a whole multitude of different tendencies came together is absolutely to the point and is explored with deftness and vigour. The book is particularly strong in helping us understand the complex interactions of forms of nationalism and radicalism within the folk revival in the North American context and how these impulses played out. The book is also strong in developing a comparative analysis of the experience of revivalism in the United States and Canada. Not only is this good in drawing attention to the neglected Canadian experience but also the very act of comparison illuminates each of the entities being compared. Mitchell's ability to synthesise material and characterise often difficult to perceive trends in cultural movements is impressive. I thoroughly commend this very interesting, well-written and worthwhile book.' Vic Gammon, University of Newcastle, UK ’Mitchell...addresses a topic that has had scant previous attention. Moreover, her focus on national identity, including in the US, is intriguing...A valuable addition to the existing scholarship. Recommended.’ Choice ’This book is a welcome read, not least for researchers of folk festivals in other regions... Mitchell's clear, non-essentialist account of a particular moment in North American music would be worthwhile reading for teachers of popular music inside and outside the region - and for their students.’ Popular Music ’... the first comparative study of the folk revival movement in (English-speaking) Canada... it should belong in any proper collection.’ Folkword ’[There is a ] high level of scholarship and critical thinking . . . evident here . . a welcome addition to the literature on folk and popular music studies in twentieth-century North America.’ Music and Letters ’The chapt