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10 Best Folk Songs

Filled with romantic nationalism, political messages, nostalgic rhythms and over-powering voices, AOL Radio's best folk songs will take you on a journey through the revolutionary decades. So grab your air guitar, harmonica or drums and hop on this easy listening ride covering the '40s, '50s, '60s and '70s.
'Both Sides, Now'
Penned and originally recorded by Joni Mitchell in 1967 (off her album 'Clouds,') this folk song was released as a single a year later by Judy Collins. Collins' version reached No. 8 on the Pop Songs chart and earned her a Grammy Award for Best Folk Performance in 1968. This song is considered to be among Mitchells' most famous songs, next to 'Big Yellow Taxi,' 'Woodstock' and 'A Case of You.'
Judy Collins Both Sides Now
'City of New Orleans'
This folk song was inspired by a train ride on the Nightly passenger train that travels 926 miles between Chicago, Illinois and New Orleans. Goodman wrote this track and performed it in a Chicago bar for Arlo Guthrie -- a famous American folk singer and song writer -- with hopes of Guthrie adding it to his repertoire. This track is now more associated with Guthrie than Goodman, even though Goodman continued to perform the song until his passing in 1984.
Steve Goodman City of New orleans
'Diamonds and Rust'
Nostalgia and romance flood the lyrics of 'Diamonds and Rust,' as the song recounts a phone call Baez receives from an old lover. Baez critics and fans deem this folk song one of her best compositions. Many speculated the identity behind the 'old lover' in her song was Bob Dylan -- however, in her 1987 memoir 'And a Voice to Sing With,' she recounts telling Dylan that the song was actually about her husband.
Joan Baez Diamonds and Rust
'The Circle Game'
Canadian singer-songwriter and painter Joni Mitchell's 'The Circle Game' was originally featured on Tom Rush's 1968 album of the same name. However, the folk song was eventually recorded and released on Mitchell's 1970 album 'Ladies of the Canyon,' which also features 'Big Yellow Taxi' and 'Woodstock.' She made the artwork for each of her albums -- including this one -- and was quoted saying that she was a "painter derailed by circumstance."
Joni Mitchell The Circle Game
'Where Have All the Flowers Gone'
This folk song was originally penned by Pete Seeger in 1955 during a flight to a concert of his in Ohio. While looking through his notebook, Seeger came across a passage he referenced previously, taken from a Ukrainian folk song featured in Mikhail Sholokhov's novel 'And Quiet Flows the Don.' Joe Hickerson added several verses five years later. But the Kingston Trio's version is most known: released in 1961 as a B-side to their single 'O Ken Karanga,' the record reached No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100 the following year. Earth, Wind & Fire, Olivia-Newton John and Peter, Paul and Mary have all covered this folk tune.
The Kingston Trio Where Have All The Flowers Gone
'If I Had a Hammer'
In 1949, 'If I Had a Hammer' was written in support of the progressive movement by Pete Seeger and American folk-singer and songwriter Lee Hays. Due to the political climate of the time, the song did not reach its' success peak until Peter, Paul and Mary covered the song in 1962, which became a Top 10 hit on the charts.
Peter Paul and Mary If I Had a Hammer
'Blowin' in the Wind'
'Blowin in the Wind' was released on Dylan's critically acclaimed 1963 album 'The Freewheelin Bob Dylan.' Rolling Stone ranked this Grammy Hall of Fame tune No. 14 on their list of the '500 Greatest Songs of All Time'. The song has been covered by hundreds of artists to this day, including Neil Young, Etta James, Bruce Springsteen and most notably Peter, Paul and Mary. This folk song has been translated and performed in French, Bengali, Romanian, Swedish and German.
Bob Dylan Blowin' in the Wind
'We Shall Overcome'
'We Shall Overcome' is a protest song used during the U.S. Civil Rights Movement. The songs lyrics were from a gospel song written by Charles Albert – an African Methodist Episcopal Church minister. Pete Seeger --American folk singer-- and other famous folksingers in the early 1960s, such as Joan Baez, sang the song at rallies, folk festivals, and concerts in the North during the civil Rights Movement.
Pete Seeger We Shall Overcome
'The Times They Are A-Changin'
Dylan's intent and goal for this song was to create an anthem of change during a time when social and political issues were prevalent -- even in songwriting and folk music. Two decades after the song was released he told screenwriter, film director and journalist Cameron Crowe in a Rolling Stone interview that "This was definitely a song with a purpose. It was influenced of course by the Irish and Scottish ballads ...'Come All Ye Bold Highway Men', 'Come All Ye Tender Hearted Maidens'. I wanted to write a big song, with short concise verses that piled up on each other in a hypnotic way."
Bob Dylan The Times They Are A-Changin'
'This Land is Your Land'
Written by American singer-songwriter and folk musician Woody Guthrie, 'This Land is Your Land' is considered one of the most famous folk songs in the U.S. In 2002, this 1940s track was added to the National Recoding Registry -- a list of songs that are considered historically and culturally informative about life in the U.S. Guthrie is referenced as one of the 20th century's most influential folk singer-songwriters.
Woody Guthrie This Land is Your Land

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