30 Famous Folk Singers Of All Time

Famous Folk Singers
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Here we go buddies, In this article, we will be looking for the best famous Folk singers of all time. As we all know, Folk songs are usually about love, loss, work, and other characteristics of life that individuals can relate to. Also, One of the explanatory features of folk harmony is its relation to individuals’ day-to-day lives and experiences.

Numerous famous folk singers have emerged over the years, individually with their amazing style and strategy to the genre. These singers have significantly impacted the evolution of folk music, and their melodies have resonated with audiences globally.

Famous folk singers with their Folk music have helped to define a memorable mark on the globe of music and will continue to inspire future generations of players for years to come. So, without wasting any time let’s scroll the page and see the list.

30 Famous Folk Singers Of All Time

1 – Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan, often referred to as the “voice of a generation,” is known for his poetic lyrics and powerful voice. He is an American folk singer and songwriter, born on May 24, 1941. Many of his songs adapted the tunes and phraseology of older folk songs. His self-titled debut album released in 1962, contained predominantly traditional folk songs, he made his breakthrough as a songwriter with the release of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan the following year.

He has received numerous awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, ten Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe Award, and an Academy Award. He has sold more than 145 million records, making him one of the best-selling musicians of all time.

2 – Joan Baez

Joan Chandos Baez is one of the famous American singers, and songwriters, born on January 9, 1941. Her contemporary folk music often includes songs of protest and social justice. Fluent in Spanish and English, also, she has recorded songs in at least six other languages. In the early 1960s, she was one of the first major artists to record the songs of Bob Dylan.

Generally, Considered a famous folk singer, but her music has diversified since the counterculture era of the 1960s and encompasses genres such as folk rock, pop, country, and gospel music.

3 – Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger, a member of the iconic folk group The Weavers, is known for his political activism and his ability to connect with audiences through his music. Seeger was an American folk singer and social activist, born on May 3, 1919 – died on January 27, 2014. Seeger was one of the folk singers responsible for popularizing the spiritual “We Shall Overcome.”

His best-known songs include:

  • “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” (with additional lyrics by Joe Hickerson),
  • “If I Had a Hammer (The Hammer Song)” (with Lee Hays of the Weavers),
  • “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine” (also with Hays),
  • “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)

4 – Joni Mitchell

Roberta Joan “Joni” Mitchell is a famous Canadian-American folk musician, and painter, born on November 7, 1943. Best known for being the most influential singer to arise from the 1960s folk music circuit. Some of her original songs (“Urge for Going”, “Chelsea Morning”, “Both Sides, Now”, and “The Circle Game”) were recorded by other folk singers.

Mitchell started exploring more jazz-influenced ideas in 1974’s Court and Spark, which featured the radio hits “Help Me” and “Free Man in Paris” and became her best-selling album. She has received many accolades, including ten Grammy Awards and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.

5 – Judy Collins

Judith Marjorie Collins is one of the famous American singers and musicians, born on May 1, 1939. Her discography consists of 36 studio albums, nine live albums, numerous compilation albums, four holiday albums, and 21 singles. Collins’ debut studio album, A Maid of Constant Sorrow, was released in 1961 and consisted of traditional folk songs.

She has her super hit tracks including “Someday Soon”, “Chelsea Morning” (also written by Mitchell), “Amazing Grace”, “Turn! Turn! Turn!”, and “Cook with Honey”. Collins experienced the biggest success of her profession with her recording of Stephen Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns” from her tenth studio album Judith (1975).

6 – Woody Guthrie

Woody Guthrie is famous for his Dust Bowl ballads and his activism on behalf of the working class. Woodrow Wilson Guthrie was one of the popular American singers and songwriters, born on July 14, 1912 – died on October 3, 1967. Marks is one of the most consequential figures in American folk music. He encouraged several generations both politically and musically with songs such as “This Land Is Your Land”.

Woody died in 1967 from complications of Huntington’s disease. Guthrie was married three times and fathered eight children. His son Arlo Guthrie became nationally known as a musician. His first two daughters also died of the disease.

7 – The Weavers

The Weavers were an American folk music quartet based in the Greenwich Village area of New York City initially consisting of Lee Hays, Pete Seeger, Ronnie Gilbert, and Fred Hellerman. The group sold millions of records at the height of their popularity, including the first folk song to reach No. 1 on popular music charts, their recording of Lead Belly’s “Goodnight, Irene.”

8 – Leonard Cohen

Leonard Norman Cohen was one of the famous Canadian singers and songwriters, born on September 21, 1934 – died on November 7, 2016. He was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

His first album, Songs of Leonard Cohen (1967), was followed by three more albums of folk music: Songs from a Room (1969), Songs of Love and Hate (1971), and New Skin for the Old Ceremony (1974).

9 – Phil Ochs

Philip David Ochs was an American folk songwriter and protest singer, born on December 19, 1940 – died on April 9, 1976. He wrote hundreds of songs in the 1960s and 1970s and released eight albums. Ochs’s influences included Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Bob Gibson, Faron Young, and Merle Haggard.

His best-known songs include “I Ain’t Marching Anymore”, “When I’m Gone”, “Changes”, “Crucifixion”, “Draft Dodger Rag”, “Love Me, I’m a Liberal”, “Outside of a Small Circle of Friends”, “Power and the Glory”, “There but for Fortune”, “The War Is Over”, and “No More Songs”.

10 – Harry Belafonte

Harry Belafonte was one of the famous Jamaican-American folk singers, and activists, born on March 1, 1927 – died on April 25, 2023. Belafonte was best known for his recordings of “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)”, “Jump in the Line (Shake, Senora)”, “Jamaica Farewell”, and “Mary’s Boy Child”.

He recorded and portrayed in many genres, including blues, folk, gospel, show tunes, and American standards. Belafonte won three Grammy Awards (including a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award), an Emmy Award, and a Tony Award.

11 – Peter, Paul, and Mary

Peter, Paul, and Mary was an American folk group formed in New York City in 1961. The trio consisted of tenor Peter Yarrow, baritone Paul Stookey, and contralto Mary Travers. The group was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999. They received the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2006.

12 – Tom Paxton

Thomas Richard Paxton is one of the famous American folk singers and songwriters, born on October 31, 1937. In 2009, Paxton received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Paxton’s songs have been widely recorded, including modern standards such as “The Last Thing on My Mind”, “Bottle of Wine”, “Whose Garden Was This”, “The Marvelous Toy”, and “Ramblin’ Boy”.

13 – Ramblin’ Jack Elliott

Ramblin’ Jack Elliott is an American folk singer and songwriter, born on August 1, 1931. Woody Guthrie had the greatest influence on Elliott. Elliott also appears briefly in the 1983 film Breathless, starring Richard Gere and directed by Jim McBride.

14 – Cat Stevens

Yusuf Islam (stage names Cat Stevens, Yusuf, and Yusuf / Cat Stevens) is one of the famous British singers and multi-instrumentalist, born on 21 July 1948. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014. His super-hit songs include “Father and Son”, “Wild World”, “Moonshadow”, “Peace Train”, and “Morning Has Broken”. He earned ASCAP songwriting awards in 2005 and 2006 for “The First Cut Is the Deepest”, which has been a hit for four artists.

15 – Simon & Garfunkel

Simon & Garfunkel was an American folk rock duo consisting of the folk singer Paul Simon and the singer Art Garfunkel. Their greatest hits, including the electric remix of “The Sound of Silence” (1965), “Mrs. Robinson” (1968), “The Boxer” (1969), and “Bridge over Troubled Water” (1970), reached number one on singles charts worldwide. Simon & Garfunkel won 7 Grammy Awards and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

16 – Janis Ian

Janis Ian is an American singer, born on April 7, 1951. Who gained commercial success in the 1960s and 1970s. Ian is also a columnist and science fiction author. Her signature songs are the 1966/67 hit “Society’s Child (Baby I’ve Been Thinking)” and the 1975 Top Ten single “At Seventeen”, from her LP Between the Lines. She has won two Grammy Awards.

17 – Odetta

Odetta Holmes aka Odetta was an American singer, guitarist, and civil rights activist, often referred to as “The Voice of the Civil Rights Movement”. She influenced many folk artists including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Mavis Staples, and Janis Joplin.

18 – Dave Van Ronk

David Kenneth Ritz Van Ronk was one of the famous American folk singers, born on June 30, 1936 – died on February 10, 2002. He was also known for performing instrumental ragtime guitar music. Folk performers he befriended include Jim and Jean, Bob Dylan, Tom Paxton, Patrick Sky, Phil Ochs, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, and Joni Mitchell.

19 – Lead Belly

Huddie William Ledbetter (stage name Lead Belly) was an American folk and blues singer notable for his strong vocals. Lead Belly’s songs covered a wide range of genres, including gospel music, blues, and folk music. Lead Belly was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 and the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2008.

20 – John Prine

John Edward Prine was one of the famous American singers of country folk music, born on October 10, 1946 – died on April 7, 2020. Best known for an often humorous style of authentic music that has features of protest and social commentary. In 2020, Prine received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

21 – Gillian Welch

Gillian Howard Welch is an American folk singer and songwriter, born on October 2, 1967. She performs with her musical partner, guitarist David Rawlings. In 2020, Welch and Rawlings released All the Good Times (Are Past & Gone), which won the 2021 Grammy Award for Best Folk Album.

Welch has teamed up with Alison Krauss, Ryan Adams, Jay Farrar, Emmylou Harris, Mark Knopfler, the Decemberists, Sam Phillips, Conor Oberst, Ani DiFranco, Robyn Hitchcock, Barry Gibb, and Molly Tuttle.

22 – Townes Van Zandt

John Townes Van Zandt was an American singer-songwriter, born on March 7, 1944 – died on January 1, 1997. His musical style has often been depicted as melancholic and features rich, poetic lyrics. Van Zandt died on New Year’s Day 1997 from cardiac arrhythmia caused by health problems stemming from years of substance abuse.

He wrote numerous songs, such as “Pancho and Lefty”, “For the Sake of the Song”, “If I Needed You”, “Tecumseh Valley”, “Tower Song”, “Rex’s Blues”, and “To Live Is to Fly.”

23 – Gordon Lightfoot

Gordon Meredith Lightfoot Jr. was one of the famous Canadian singers and guitarists who achieved international success in folk, folk-rock, and country music. He released many super hit songs including “If You Could Read My Mind” (1970), “Sundown” (1974); “Carefree Highway” (1974), “Rainy Day People” (1975), and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” (1976).

Lightfoot’s biographer Nicholas Jennings said, “His name is synonymous with timeless songs about trains and shipwrecks, rivers and highways, lovers and loneliness.”

24 – Kalpana Patowary

Kalpana Patowary is an Indian playback and folk singer from Assam. She sings in 30 languages and has many folk and popular songs to her credit, while the Bhojpuri theme has been her most dedicated foray.

25 – Harry Chapin

Harold Forster Chapin was one of the most famous American singers, philanthropists, and hunger activists, born on December 7, 1942 – died on July 16, 1981. Best known for his folk rock and pop rock songs. He achieved worldwide success in the 1970s. Chapin recorded a total of 11 albums from 1972 until he died in 1981.

26 – James Taylor

James Vernon Taylor is a popular American singer and songwriter, born on March 12, 1948. Taylor is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold more than 100 million records worldwide. Best known for his covers, such as “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)” and “Handy Man”, as well as originals such as “Sweet Baby James”.

27 – Doc Watson

Arthel Lane “Doc” Watson was an American guitarist, songwriter, and singer of bluegrass, folk, country, blues, and gospel music, born on March 3, 1923 – died on May 29, 2012. He won seven Grammy awards as well as a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

28 – The Kingston Trio

The Kingston Trio is an American folk and pop music group that helped launch the folk revival of the late 1950s to the late 1960s. The group includes the original lineup of Dave Guard, Bob Shane, and Nick Reynolds. The Kingston Trio was one of the most prominent groups of the era’s folk-pop boom.

In 1961, the Trio was described as “the most envied, the most imitated, and the most successful singing group, folk or otherwise, in all show business” and “the undisputed kings of the folksinging rage by every yardstick.”

29 – Ani DiFranco

Angela Maria “Ani” DiFranco is one of the famous American-Canadian singers and songwriters, born on September 23, 1970. She has released more than 20 albums. He is influenced by many music genres including punk, funk, hip-hop, and jazz. In addition, DiFranco supports many social and political movements by performing benefit concerts, appearing on benefit albums, and speaking at rallies.

30 – Donovan

Donovan Phillips Leitch aka Donovan is a Scottish folk musician, and record producer, born on 10 May 1946. Donovan rose to fame in the United Kingdom in early 1965 with live concerts on the pop TV series Ready Steady Go!. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012 and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2014.

Hope you like our list. Also, you must know about the famous Lesbian Singers.