Tuesday, March 8, 2011

For What It's Worth

Folk Rock Week: Part 2
Deeper into the roots and legacy of folk rock, the amount of subgenres that have formed out of the initial genre of the 1960's is impressive. Some of these subgenres include Celtic rock, electric folk, folk metal, folk punk, Medieval folk rock, psychedelic folk, Indie folk, and so on. Realizing that going into any further detail about these could take all day, I'm just going to jump back into the classic folk rock of the 1960's.

Released as a single in January 1967, "For What It's Worth" is a great folk rock song by the American group Buffalo Springfield, and is another classic tune listed in Rolling Stones' 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Although the band only lasted for about two years, Buffalo Springfield was the springboard for the future careers of its members, Neil Young and Stephen Stills (both in Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young), and Richie Furay and Jim Messina (in Poco). During the turbulent times of the Vietnam War, this song quickly became known as a protest-song, however, its writer, Stephen Stills, wrote it as a reaction to the riots of the young club-goers on Hollywood's Sunset Strip at that time (the same inspiration for The Monkees' "Daily Nightly"), e.i. "Stop, children, what's that sound?" As introduced by Peter Tork (Stills' roommate!), this is Buffalo Springfield's live performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in May 1967. EDITED 1/23/12: Rats, this video has been removed from YouTube, yet again! Here's a different performance from the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1967:

Known as the "quintessential folk rock release," the American folk duo, Simon and Garfunkel, was propelled into 1960's popularity with "The Sound of Silence" from September 1965. Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel were close childhood friends from Queens, New York, and first found their success as a singing duo in the Greenwich Village folk music scene (along with musicians Stephen Stills and Peter Tork). Written by Paul Simon in the aftermath of President Kennedy's assassination, it was originally recorded in 1964 with just the acoustic guitar and the haunting vocal harmonies of Simon and Garfunkel, but it wasn't until months later, after hearing the release of Bob Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone," an electric rock band was overdubbed to create the song's new folk rock sound. Also included in that list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, here's another wonderful live performance "The Sound of Silence" from that same Monterey Pop Festival in 1967.
Next up is yet another group that has their founding roots in New York's Greenwich Village folk music scene as well before moving to L.A. (definitely the place to be for the folkies in the 1960's!). Written by John and Michelle Phillips of The Mamas and The Papas, their 1967 autobiographical, folk rock hit, "Creeque Alley," describes the story of how the group formed. The song's lyrics directly mentions several musicians who were at the music scene with them, including the group's own Cass Elliot and lead singer Denny Doherty (formerly of The Mugwumps), plus John Sebastian and Zal Yanovsky (of The Lovin' Spoonful), Jim McGuinn (of The Byrds), and Barry McGuire (known for the song "Eve of Destruction"). Now hearing this song with these musicians' names in mind will make a lot more sense! Although the group had generally "left the folk music behind" by the mid-60's, this is a fun homage to the roots of the beloved vocal group.


In the late 1960's, Scottish folk singer-songwriter Donovan (Leitch) was influential in the development of Celtic rock, one of those subgenres of folk rock that combines traditional Celtic instruments, as well as traditional vocal styles, in a rock band setting. In about 1968, the initially folk rock Donovan stripped his sound back from his pop and psychedelic explorations, dubbing this new sound Celtic rock. Based on a poem by author Lewis Caroll (Alice in Wonderland), "Jabberwocky" comes from his children's album HMS Donovan, and it is a wonderful, haunting gem from this genre.

Alright, so I've branched out a bit with a subgenre of folk rock, but more classic folk rock tunes are already queued up for the next post!

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