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'The Folk Years'

<I>The Folk Years</I>
The Folk Years

A new set from Time-Life celebrates the 1960s folk revival with a wide variety of songs, many of which wouldn't fit into today's definition of classic folk music. But then that was the idea. Starting in the late 1950s, popular musicians rediscovered traditional folk songs, in many cases updating the sound to fit the style of the day. The Folk Years, the new eight-CD collection of 120 songs captures that era, which was lovingly lampooned earlier this year in the Christopher Guest film, A Mighty Wind.

On Weekend Edition Saturday, NPR's Linda Wertheimer talks to John Sebastian of The Lovin' Spoonful and Bob Flick of The Brothers Four. Both groups are featured in the set.

"The Spoonful was already kind of a committed electric band," Sebastian says. "I didn't really consider myself as that much a part of the movement that was at the heart of the body of work that this Time-Life compilation represents." That's ironic considering that he's pitching the collection in the company's late-night TV commercials.

Flick jokes that The Brothers Four shocked the Newport Folk Festival crowd by performing in shorts. (Though the style of the new folk genre was more likely cardigan sweaters.) "We alienated lots of the coffeehouse people, but we were never part of the coffeehouse culture, nor did we ever work in the cotton fields or work in a mine -- sorry."

But Flick says the music "really bridges the gap... and the time between our first interpretations [of the Library of Congress's seminal recordings by John and Alan Lomax] where we all got this music. Then suddenly emerged people who decided they could express themselves and write original material within this framework."

The set includes a diverse group of performers:

» The Kingston Trio's 1959 hit, "A Worried Man," which was based on "Worried Man Blues," recorded three decades earlier by country music legends the Carter Family.

» "Dominique," the 1963 international hit by the Singing Nun (Sister Luc-Gabrielle of Belgium's Fichermont Convent).

» Dion's 1966 rendition of Tim Harden's "If I Were a Carpenter."

» "Georgy Girl," the 1966 title song of the film starring Lynn Redgrave. It was performed by The Seekers, an Australian group.

» What would a folk set be without Bob Dylan? His recording of the love song "Boots of Spanish Leather" is here. But the collection also includes The Byrds' 1965 version of "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "It Ain't Me Babe," covered that same year by The Turtles.

» Harry Belafonte, considered "Banana Boat (Day-O)" a "throwaway" filler. But when a folk trio called the Tarriers had a minor hit with the tune, RCA released Belafonte's version, which became a classic.

» Jose Feliciano's version of the Doors' "Light My Fire" gave mainstream success to the singer, who had previously recorded mostly in Spanish.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

As NPR's senior national correspondent, Linda Wertheimer travels the country and the globe for NPR News, bringing her unique insights and wealth of experience to bear on the day's top news stories.