15 Best Folk Music Songs of All Time

Folk music songs are the soulful narratives of tradition and heritage, weaving stories of everyday life, love, and human connection. Rooted in the heart of communities, this genre is characterized by its simplicity and the universal themes it addresses. Folk songs are the voices of the people, offering a heartfelt reflection of the shared experiences that bind us together.

From rustic ballads to lively, toe-tapping tunes, folk music spans a diverse range of styles, often accompanied by acoustic instruments like guitars, banjos, and fiddles. These songs are a testament to the beauty found in simplicity, relying on genuine lyrics and heartfelt melodies.

Folk artists are storytellers, often possessing an earnest sincerity that shines through in their performances. They are masters of crafting narratives that resonate with listeners on a deeply personal level, evoking emotions that are both relatable and universal.

Folk music is a genre that celebrates community and cultural identity. Whether in the intimate setting of a coffeehouse or the lively atmosphere of a festival, these songs create a sense of unity, reminding us of the importance of preserving and passing down our cultural heritage.

Ultimately, folk music songs are a celebration of the human experience, an affirmation of our shared history, and a reminder that our stories are interconnected. They offer a timeless connection to our roots, proving that the power of music lies not only in its melodies, but in its ability to unite hearts and preserve the essence of a culture.

1. This Land Is Your Land – Woody Guthrie

Enthralling audiences for generations, Woody Guthrie’s iconic folk song “This Land Is Your Land” has stood the test of time as one of the best ever written. It was crafted as a response to Irving Berlin’sGod Bless America” – expressing the struggles & dreams of everyday people.

This powerful anthem carries a strong social message, celebrating the inclusivity & belonging of all people in America. Its simple yet profound lyrics address poverty, wealth inequality and land ownership – making it a tool for social change.

Uniting people through its inspiring melody and profound message, “This Land Is Your Land” continues to be widely sung by various artists across different genres. It serves as a reminder that we all have a stake in this great land we call home.

2. Irene – Lead Belly

Irene, by Lead Belly – a timeless folk music song. It captivates with melodic beauty and meaningful lyrics. Let’s journey through its history!

Table Format:

Artist Song
Lead Belly Irene

Simple, effective. No distractions.

It has qualities setting it apart from other folk songs. Lead Belly’s soulful voice and guitar mastery leave a lasting impact.

Did you know? This enchanting song was originally written in the early 20th century. Its roots are in African-American culture, a work song. Over time, Irene has been covered by many different artists, making it one of the best folk music songs ever.

A final thought – explore Malvina Reynolds’ folk music masterpiece!

3. Little Boxes – Malvina Reynolds

Little Boxes, by Malvina Reynolds, is a classic folk song. Its catchy melody and poignant lyrics have been popular for decades.

Release date: 1962.

Genre: Folk.

Writer(s): Malvina Reynolds.

Album: Malvina Reynolds Sings the Truth.

Despite being released in 1962, Little Boxes is still relevant. Its message critiques conformity and suburban life. Listeners relate to the pressure to conform to societal norms.

Don’t miss out on this iconic song. Listen to it and appreciate its timeless appeal. Let its powerful message inspire you to be yourself in a world that encourages conformity.

Tim Hardin’s ‘If I Were A Carpenter’ reminds us that even if we were good builders, we’d still find it hard to construct a successful Tinder bio!

4. If I Were A Carpenter – Tim Hardin

Tim Hardin’s “If I Were A Carpenter” is a renowned folk music song. It was released in 1967 and showcases his exceptional talent as a singer-songwriter.

This timeless classic has been covered by various artists. Notable covers include versions by Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, Bobby Darin, and The Four Tops. Each rendition has its unique interpretation while staying true to the essence of the original composition.

It is believed that Bobby Darin played an influential role in popularizing the song after hearing a demo recording by Hardin. This collaboration between two talented musicians adds intrigue to the narrative surrounding this beloved folk music gem.

This song stands tall amongst the greats of all time. Its timeless appeal continues to captivate audiences around the world, solidifying its place in music history for generations to come.

5. 500 Miles – Hedy West


Hedy West’s folk classic “500 Miles” is an unforgettable song. Five points to remember:

  1. Poetic Lyrics: Talking of longing, distance, and love, West’s words evoke a yearning we all know.
  2. Haunting Melody: Its melancholic yet soothing sounds remain in our minds after the song ends.
  3. Timeless Appeal: Years later, it still has a universal message that makes it cherished.
  4. Cultural Significance: It’s an emblematic folk song, meant to tell stories through music.
  5. Influence: West’s interpretation paved the way for others to experiment with folk music.

Youthful at the time, she wrote it with her exceptional talent to capture emotions. One story – a soldier found comfort in this song overseas. That’s how Hedy West’s “500 Miles” touches hearts worldwide.

6. The Big Rock Candy Mountain – Harry McClintock

Harry McClintock’s “The Big Rock Candy Mountain” has been charming listeners for decades. Its jaunty tune and intriguing lyrics tell of a blissful world. Let’s take a look at this immortal folk song.

Here’s an overview of “The Big Rock Candy Mountain” composed by Harry McClintock:

Song —————————- ——————
The Big Rock Candy Mountain Harry McClintock

Now, let’s delve into some unique aspects of this folk music gem. Did you know that “The Big Rock Candy Mountain” was first recorded by Harry McClintock in 1928? His real and heartfelt vocals give the track a special feel.

Also, during the Great Depression, “The Big Rock Candy Mountain” became popular among railroad workers. It acted as a retreat from their suffering and a symbol of better days ahead. This shows the strength of music to bring comfort and unity to people in challenging times.

7. Blues Run The Game – Jackson C. Frank

Jackson C. Frank’s ‘Blues Run The Game’ is an iconic folk music piece. Its soulful tune and meaningful lyrics draw listeners in. This song truly displays Frank’s remarkable talent.

One special detail about ‘Blues Run The Game’ is its powerful yet subtle influence. It was released in 1965 on Frank’s self-titled debut album. Numerous artists have paid homage to this timeless song, including Simon & Garfunkel who covered it on their ‘Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme’ album.

The legacy of ‘Blues Run The Game’ lives on. Musicians are still inspired by it and folk music lovers all around the world are touched by its melodic beauty. For a truly wild experience, check out Cat Stevens’ ‘Wild World’. Its eerie lyrics are even more unsettling when you find out how many times your ex has played it on Spotify.

8. Wild World – Cat Stevens

Cat Stevens\’ “Wild World” is one of the greatest folk music songs of all time. Its heartfelt lyrics and captivating melody have mesmerized listeners for decades.


  1. “Now that I\’ve lost everything to you”
  2. “You say you wanna start something new”
  3. “And it\’s breakin\’ my heart you\’re leavin\'”

The song’s story of lost love and moving on is made more vulnerable by Cat Stevens\’ soulful delivery. It shows that sometimes, letting go is the hardest part.

This iconic track was released in 1970 as part of the album “Tea for the Tillerman.” It quickly became a chart-topping hit, cementing Cat Stevens’ place in folk music history. Who needs instruments when you can hammer out a classic tune like Pete Seeger?’.

9. If I Had A Hammer (Hammer Song) – Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger’s “If I Had A Hammer (Hammer Song)” is a timeless classic. It was released in 1949 and quickly became a symbol of unity for social justice movements. Its lyrics express a desire for peace, love, and freedom. Seeger’s melodious voice and skillful guitar playing bring life to the heartfelt composition.

Critics recognize the song’s power to motivate individuals to make a difference. It showcases Seeger’s commitment to using music for positive change. His exceptional talent makes him an iconic figure in folk music.

The song transcends being a mere tune. It becomes an emblem of hope, reminding us we have the power to build a better world. To experience its magic, one should listen to Pete Seeger’s live performances. His passion and conviction will elevate the song to an unforgettable experience. Elizabeth Cotten’s ‘Freight Train’ is like a locomotive running on pure folk music magic, with soulful rhythms and haunting lyrics.

10. Freight Train – Elizabeth Cotten

Freight Train – Elizabeth Cotten is one of the 15 best folk music songs ever. It captures the hearts of listeners with its timeless beauty.

Freight Train
Artist Elizabeth Cotten
Genre Folk
Release Year 1958

The song stands out for its intricate fingerpicking style and heartfelt lyrics. It takes you back to a different era with a nostalgic feel.

The story behind it is inspiring. Cotten composed the song while self-taught and left-handed. She’d play it for her family at night, and worked as a domestic helper during the day. It was rediscovered years later when she worked for the Seeger family, famous folk musicians.

Freight Train – Elizabeth Cotten still moves people worldwide. It shows the power of folk music to evoke emotions through storytelling. It is one of the greatest folk songs ever. Bob Dylan’s folk anthem will make you ponder if anything ever changes.

11. The Times They Are A-Changin’ – Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan’s classic, “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” is an iconic folk song. Its lyrics are powerful and its message is timeless. It’s a symbol of social change and revolution – one of the best folk songs ever!

The lyrics of “The Times They Are A-Changin’” speak to all. Simple yet profound, they remind us that change is essential. Dylan’s voice and poetic words draw us into a place where we can question norms.

This song is significant for more than its lyrics. It was released in 1964 during immense cultural turmoil. It became an anthem for Civil Rights, anti-war, and other movements – a rallying cry for justice and equality.

Dylan’s storytelling in “The Times They Are A-Changin’” paints a vivid picture of a world in flux. His words still have meaning today – they remind us that we can challenge what’s wrong and strive for a better future.

12. Blue Moon Of Kentucky – Bill Monroe

Bill Monroe’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky” is a timeless classic in the world of folk music. Its melody and lyrics have captivated listeners for generations. Let’s examine what makes this iconic piece so special.

To understand the significance of “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” let’s take a look at its remarkable qualities.

Year Released: 1946
Genre: Folk
Length (minutes): 3:06

This beloved folk song displays Bill Monroe’s immense talent as a musician and songwriter. His soulful vocals, combined with the enchanting melody, create an emotional journey.

The song incorporates bluegrass and country music, creating a distinctive sound. Monroe’s guitar playing and poetic lyrics are captivating.

Experience this beautiful meditation on love, longing, and life by listening to “Blue Moon of Kentucky“. Enjoy this masterpiece that has shaped the folk music scene for decades.

Take this musical voyage and let the melodies of “Blue Moon of Kentucky” transport you to a world of timeless classics.

13. Candy Man – Mississippi John Hurt

The timeless folk gem, “Candy Man,” by Mississippi John Hurt enchants listeners with its soulful melodies and passionate lyrics. Hurt’s expert guitar playing and calming vocals leave a lasting impression on the folk music scene. A table encapsulates the core of this legendary song without any frills –

  Candy Man
Artist: Mississippi John Hurt

Hurt’s skill in conveying both joy and sadness in his music is remarkable. The words demonstrate the hardships faced by African Americans at the time, yet they also express a sense of hope. Each note paints a vivid picture of both endurance and success. Interestingly, he was found after years of obscurity in 1963. Tom Hoskins hunted him down in Avalon, Mississippi, which led to his performance at the Newport Folk Festival and the beginning of his second musical career. Just to add, this song made Rolling Stone magazine’s list of “500 Greatest Songs of All Time“. The power of “Candy Man” is not just in its intricate guitar work, but also in the emotions it stirs. It is a testament to Hurt’s talent, placing it among the greatest folk music songs ever made.

14. Deep River Blues – Doc Watson

Doc Watson’s Deep River Blues is one of the greatest folk songs ever. Its captivating melody and heartfelt lyrics showcase his immense talent. His guitar playing is superb – each string plucked with precision!

The song has a melancholic yet uplifting tone. It evokes emotions and tells a story. Plus, Doc Watson’s smooth vocals transport listeners to a tranquil riverside setting.

But what sets Deep River Blues apart is its universal theme. It connects people across generations with its message of hope in troubled times.

To appreciate the song, listen to it in a peaceful environment. Let its soothing sounds wash over you and take you to a serene river. Nick Drake’s ‘Pink Moon’ also perfectly captures those introspective, existential-dread moments.

15. Pink Moon – Nick Drake


Nick Drake’s Pink Moon is a captivating folk classic. His voice and acoustic guitar create an intimate atmosphere. The song’s emotion shines through in Drake’s poetic lyrics. Listeners relate to how raw and vulnerable he sounds.

Pink Moon has an unconventional structure. It’s only two minutes long. This makes it feel like a fleeting moment. It leaves a lasting impact on those looking for something special.

If you want similar music, try The Beatles’ “Blackbird” and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”. They also showcase the power of simple storytelling. Like Pink Moon, they still resonate with audiences today.

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