Together with you, we want to venture into the world of folk music! In essence, this means that we dedicate ourselves to those songs that dress their traditionally held staging in modern musical garb. Enjoy the 100 best representatives of the style, in our opinion!
(You can find a Spotify playlist at the end of the article.)
1st place: Woody Guthrie – This Land Is Your Land (1967)
Hardly any singer is as rooted in American folk as Woody Guthrie. Artistically active since the 1940s, Guthrie’s numerous hits played a major part in the style, which arranged tried-and-true elements of folk music in a contemporary way, sweeping across the United States of America like an unstoppable wave of success.
This Land Is Your Land” from 1967 is considered one of the most significant entries in the musician’s resume. Within his song, Guthrie sings about the diversity and beauty of his homeland. The song has a naturally relaxed charm that helps to make the breathtaking landscapes of the vast nation palatable even to those who have never set foot in the USA.
2nd place: Bob Dylan – Mr. Tambourine Man (1965)
In 1965, American musician Bob Dylan gave the folk world a timeless classic. After the song “Mr.
Tambourine Man” was released in 1965; the hit has been adapted countless times by other artists and is still considered one of the genre’s best songs. However, the actual meaning of the song’s lyrics is still a matter of debate today. The most common assumption is that the titular “Mr. Tambourine Man” is about a protagonist who experiences the most surreal fantasies in the course of drug intoxication.
Meanwhile, the musical trip is on the album “Bringing It All Back Home”. The song achieved great commercial success at the time and, in addition to the first place in the U.S. charts in that country, also secured a gold record.
3rd place: Steve Goodman – City of New Orleans (1971)
Although the version of “City of New Orleans” by the singer Arlo Guthrie was much more successful than the musician Steve Goodman, we decided to give the free place in our folk list to the forefather of the song for the third place in our selection. Released in 1971, the music takes us on a journey of protest in an inimitable manner, during which we can take a seat on the titular train “City of New Orleans.”
Goodman wanted to point out the political grievances of the country with his song, as the government had shortly before decided to withdraw the sung-about train, which was an inexpensive means of transportation for the country’s simple population. While the original version of the song did not achieve great financial success, the performance of the music released in 1984 became a powerful chart-topper and secured first place in the U.S. country charts.
4th place: Bob Dylan – Blowin’ in the Wind (1963)
We are dedicating ourselves to the artist Bob Dylan for the second time in the fourth place shows how vital the artist from Minnesota is for folk music in general. In his timeless hit from 1963, Dylan deals with a socially critical topic and relentlessly points out many social problems of his time. “Blowin’ in the Wind” makes melodic use of a well-worn gospel tune titled “No More Auction Block.”
The artist asks many rhetorical questions that deal with the meaning of war, coercion, and violence in terms of content. “Blowin’ in the Wind” would fail to make the charts at the time but, over time, advanced to become a powerful anti-war song whose significant influence on pop culture today is undisputed.
5th place: The Mamas & The Papas – California Dreamin’ (1965)
We all know the feeling when we long for the warming sun of summer on bitterly cold winter nights. Also, the band “The Mamas & The Papas” knew this longing and adapted their musical longing for the warm Californian homeland 1965 into a unique folk song, which rose within the shortest time to the million-seller. The wistful lyrics, in the context of which the protagonist finds himself in the merciless cold of an anonymous city, are perfectly complemented by the catchy melody, which, without any doubt, is absolute has an earworm character.
The song reached fourth place in the American “Billboard Hot 100”, which was honored with a gold record.
6th place: Simon & Garfunkel – Mrs. Robinson. Robinson (1968)
With the release of “Mrs. Robinson,” the folk-rock duo Simon & Garfunkel scored their second number one hit in the U.S. charts in 1968. The song, an original version of which was featured in the film “The Graduate,” is about the troubles and sorrows of its eponymous protagonist.
Within the lyrics, the two performers do everything they can to give Miss Robinson the courage she needs to get through this chaotic period of her life unscathed. The song, which numerous well-known artists have covered over the years, was able to shine with respectable sales figures in Europe and the chart mentioned above success in the United States. Accordingly, “Mrs.
Robinson” achieved an honorable fourth place in the British singles charts.
7th place: Leonard Cohen – Hallelujah (1984)
With “Hallelujah” from 1984, the Canadian artist Leonard Cohen demonstrated to the music world how deep-seated heartbreak could be musically processed incomparably. The lyrics of the song are interspersed with many biblical comparisons. While the artist talks about his sadness over a lost love affair, he also reflects on all the beautiful moments he had with his beloved. “Hallelujah” was rearranged countless times by other artists in the following years.
The original version of this touching track was part of the album “Various Positions.” The album in question charted rather poorly at its release and did not make it past 60 copies in the musician’s native Canada. The rank of the hit list.
8th place: Bob Dylan – Like a Rolling Stone (1965)
Bob Dylan – the third! In his musical milestone “Like a Rolling Stone,” the artist tells us the story of a once well-protected young woman who ends up on the streets in the course of various events. Deprived of all the privileges of her old life, the protagonist is henceforth condemned to roam the merciless environment like a simple vagrant.
Bob Dylan himself plays with all kinds of clichés and consequently rubs his main character’s nose in numerous prejudices that the spoiled brat once harbored towards the clientele to which she now belongs. The significance of this unique song is undisputed within the professional world, and “Like a Rolling Stone” is listed on countless best lists. Released in 1965, the song became an absolute chart success and sold more than a million copies.
9th place: The Byrds – Turn! Turn! Turn! (1965)
“Turn! Turn! Turn!” by “The Byrds” describes to its listeners the inexorable change of life. The song makes use of a famous biblical passage that says that everything comes in its own time.
Life will tell whether it’s time to love, hate, laugh, or cry. The song, which Pete Seeger penned, became a much-noticed hit in “The Byrds” version during the mid-60s. In the United States, the song even made it to the top of the Billboard Hot 100, and in Great Britain, it reached number 26 in the charts.
10th place: Simon & Garfunkel – The Sound of Silence (1964)
The inimitable, melancholy vibe that flows through the lines of “The Sound of Silence” helped the Simon & Garfunkel song become one of the most famous folk songs in history over the years. The reworked version of the track originally released in 1964 achieved great international chart success in 1966 and secured pole position in the American sales lists, among others.
The song’s content deals with the personal consequences of loneliness and the growing anonymity within huge metropolises. “The Sound of Silence” has a deep note, the resigned character of the song inspires us to reflect on the social problems in our society.
11th place: The Lovin’ Spoonful – Do You Believe in Magic (1965)
With a running time of just over two minutes, “Do You Believe in Magic” by “The Lovin’ Spoonful” comes along very crisply. But it doesn’t take much more time to transport the light-hearted character of the song straight into the listener’s heart. “Do You Believe in Magic” is thus a hymn to hope, encouraging us to recognize the good in every situation in life, no matter how challenging it may be.
The song, which was released in 1965, enjoyed a ninth place in the U.S. charts at the time.
12th place: The Beatles – Norwegian Wood (1965)
It may be true that “Norwegian Wood” is not necessarily the most famous song of the world-famous band from Liverpool. However, this does not mean that “Norwegian Wood” has not earned its place in our selection. The theme comes with a coherent folklore character and tells us in detail the tricky love story of two lovebirds, which, thanks to its easy charm, provides us, listeners, with a pleasantly warm feeling in the stomach area. “Norwegian Wood” is on the album “Rubber Soul” and was not released as a single song.
As we are used to from our beloved “mushroom heads”, the sixth studio album of the Beatles went to number one in countless countries.
13th place: Donovan – Sunshine Superman (1966)
The flair that emanates from “Sunshine Superman” is musically packaged coolness in its purest form. The number by British artist Donovan exudes the feeling of summer lightness, which is perfect for giving yourself a little time out from everyday life’s requesting the hustle and bustle. “Sunshine Superman” became an unstoppable chart-topper at its release. In this country, the song reached seventh place on the charts, while the single on the British market could grab second place on the sales list.
However, in the United States, no one was able to challenge the stylish song, so “Sunshine Superman” was rightfully crowned at the top of the “Billboard Hot 100”.
Number 14: The Lovin’ Spoonful – Summer in the City (1966)
While we’re on the subject of summer moods: Summer in the City” by “The Lovin’ Spoonful” is also perfectly suited to enhance the warm nights during the hot season. The classic from the 60s takes us into the blistering hot summer days of a big city, in which the residents drag themselves across the streets like zombies due to the crippling heat.
In stark contrast to this are the moody nights: as soon as the temperatures cool down a bit in the evening, it’s time to enjoy life in all its easy-going exuberance. The sunny number became an international box-office hit, topping the charts in the Netherlands, Canada, and the United States.
15th place: Buffalo Springfield – For What It’s Worth (1966)
With “For What It’s Worth,” the American band Buffalo Springfield denounced the numerous street fights regularly fought between activists and police officers in the United States during the mid-1960s. The song, distinguished by its characteristic guitar riffs, was honored with a silver record in Great Britain.
In addition, the universal anti-violence anthem has been taken up in numerous films. According to this, we get to hear “For What It’s Worth” in “Tropic Thunder” as well as in “Forrest Gump”, among others.
16th place: Sonny & Cher – I Got You Babe (1965)
The adults around them often ridicule the love affair of two very young people. “Sonny & Cher” gave us a glimpse into the soul life of the other side in their song “I Got You Babe,” which was released in 1965. The two lovers hold on to their unshakable love despite all doubters. The two protagonists encourage each other not to listen to the know-it-all suggestions of their elders but to trust solely in their hearts.
The incomparably beautiful love hymn of the famous Performerer duo, who were also married in real life, hit the heart of a broad international audience at the time. The song became a number one hit in Great Britain and the USA and sold more than a million copies worldwide.
#17: Bob Dylan – Subterranean Homesick Blues (1965)
With its brisk pace, “Subterranean Homesick Blues” takes us on a fast-paced journey through the lives of various protagonists. With the help of the different characters and their stories, we are confronted, as it were, with the most diverse everyday problems of the 60s. Whether the illegal drug trade or the mismanagement of politics: Bob Dylan proves once again how the musical finger can be excellently poked into the gaping wounds of society.
The song, which also served as the title track to the album “Bringing It All Back Home,” reached the Top 10 charts in Great Britain.
Number 18: The Turtles – Happy Together (1967)
For many people, the fulfillment of heavenly love is probably the highest happiness on this earth. So if you need a suitable accompanying song for your romantic impulses, “Happy Together” by “The Turtles” is a perfect choice.
This emotional anthem manages the feat of conveying the heartfelt feelings that the performer touchingly has for his beloved without straying too far into the realm of kitsch. “Happy Together” even managed to knock the Beatles’ song “Penny Lane” off the top of the American charts at the time and to anchor the pole position of the hit list for itself.
19th place: The Mamas & The Papas – Monday, Monday (1966)
We all hate Montage. This darn weekday has the nerve to end our beloved weekend so that we can do something productive for our livelihood and our society in general.
Outrageous! If you share our not-so-serious attitude towards probably the most hated day of the week, you should take a look at the song “Monday, Monday” by “The Mamas & The Papas,” which saw the musical light of day in 1966. The melodically significant arranged number proves us once again: Monday is predestined for unpleasant incidents. From a commercial point of view, “Monday, Monday” hit the bull’s eye.
In Germany and in the USA the track secured second and first place and was also awarded a gold record in both countries.
20th place: Scott McKenzie – San Francisco (1967)
The hit of the Californian singer-songwriter, who died in 2012, became something like the universal anthem of the international hippie movement. The world-famous song is characterized mainly by its soulful note contentwise we get it again with gentle flower power in pure culture. According to this, Scott McKenzie positions himself in “San Francisco” against egoism, violence, and the conservative norms of the petty bourgeoisie.
The single became a million-seller and secured first place in the charts in our native Germany.