Definition of folk song noun from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary


    folk song

    BrE BrE//ˈfəʊk sɒŋ//
    ; NAmE NAmE//ˈfoʊk sɔːŋ//
    Pieces of music
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  1. 1a song in the traditional style of a country or community See related entries: Pieces of music
  2. 2a type of song that became popular in the US in the 1960s, played on a guitar and often about political topics See related entries: Pieces of music
  3. Culturefolk music and songsTraditional British folk music has many different forms, including songs and ballads (= songs that tell a story). Many folk songs relate to the lives of ordinary people in past centuries; others tell of famous love stories or celebrate nature. The verses may be sung by one voice alone, with the choruses sung by everyone present. Some folk songs are learned at school and are familiar to everyone, for example Greensleeves, The Ash Grove, Green Grow the Rushes O and Auld Lang Syne, which is always sung at New Year. In Wales and Ireland a harp may sometimes be used to accompany the singing, but most songs are now accompanied by a guitar or piano.A lot of instrumental folk music (= for instruments only) comes from Scotland and Ireland and ranges from laments on the bagpipes to lively dance tunes. Most dance music is traditionally played on the fiddle (= violin). Irish folk bands usually have flutes, tin whistles, string instruments, pipes and a bodhrán (= an Irish drum).American folk music was created by the combination of many folk styles brought to America by immigrants (= people who went to live there from other countries). Music helped keep alive the traditions and memories of people's former homes. From the late 19th century many songs and tunes that had been passed down orally were collected together and written down. In America more than 10 000 old songs were collected by John and Alan Lomax, and in Britain Cecil Sharp (1859-1924) collected both songs and folk dances. Such collections influenced major works by composers such as Ralph Vaughan Williams and Benjamin Britten. Dvořák used American folk music in his symphony From the New World (1893) , as did Aaron Copland in Appalachian Spring (1944) .In the US the Carter Family helped make folk music popular again in the 1920s. By the 1950s the recording industry had made folk music commercially successful. This interest in folk music also led to folk clubs being established all over the US.In the 1960s other styles developed, including the bluegrass of Bill Monroe and the country music of Hank Williams. The most important was folk rock which combined traditional folk music with features of rock and pop. The US created urban folk music which used the problems of cities as subjects for folk songs. By the 1960s, folk music was being used to encourage social change and it became the music of hippies and the civil rights movement. A new generation of singer-songwriters emerged, including Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Richard Thompson and Dick Gaughan. Folk festivals were popular. In 1963, just before the Vietnam War, performers at the Newport, Rhode Island, festival included Bob Dylan, Pete Seegerand Peter, Paul and Mary. They attacked the prejudices of society and the violence of war in songs such as Blowin' in the Wind, The Times They Are a Changin' and If I Had a Hammer.Folk music is still very popular. In Britain folk festivals are held regularly and many towns still have a folk club for amateur singers and musicians.
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: folk song