Narrowing down the best folk songs of all time is no easy feat. After all, what people now know as folk music derives from a movement that rescued traditional music, infused it with social and political values, and later on added a touch every day and a lot of heart. The music scene was changed forever, and these folk songs are a testament to that.
1. This Land Is Your Land by Woody Guthrie
2. The Times They Are a'Changing by Bob Dylan
3. Woodstock by Joni Mitchell
4. Where Have All the Flowers Gone? by Pete Seeger
Pete Seeger wrote or covered most of the greatest folk songs out there; Rolling Stone even dubbed him as the "foremost contemporary popularizer of American folk music." In Where Have All the Flowers Gone? the artist reflects on the consequences of war and the way history repeats itself, making it a song of perennial political value.
5. Tom Dooley by The Kingston Trio
6. Pancho and Lefty by Townes Van Zandt
7. I Ain't Marching Anymore by Phil Ochs
8. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down by Joan Baez
Joan Baez, whose musical career has spanned over 60 years, has been an indomitable political, environmental, and human rights activist throughout. While singing at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom is one her most memorable performances, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down has been her most popular song according to Billboard.
9. Sound of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel
10. Give Me One Reason by Tracy Chapman
11. Suzanne by Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen was an accomplished poet, singer, and songwriter. His poignant songs deal with the duality of being and the whole spectrum of human emotions. Suzanne is included in Folk Alley's essential songs list, but his meaningful work earned him a Lifetime Achievement Award and a place in the Grammy Hall of Fame.
12. Raising Sand by Alison Krauss
Alison Krauss is one of the most popular folk, country, and bluegrass contemporary singers today. A multitude of Grammy Awards including two for Best Folk Album, testify to her talent. Thanks to her Billboard topping heart-rending songs like Raising Sand, she has established herself as worthy of hanging out with the grand old men of folk.
13. Red Dirt Girl by Emmylou Harris
Emmylou Harris, another Grammy award collector, has been forging her music career since 1960s. A singer, songwriter, and activist, she is not only critically-acclaimed, she is also loved by fellow artists. Her self-penned song Red Dirt Girl is considered one of the best examples of contemporary folk music.
14. Heart of Gold by Neil Young
15. Ho Hey by The Lumineers
The Lumineers are fairly new in the folk rock scene, especially when considering the long careers of many of the folk artists. However, they arrived with a bang earning Grammy nominations and performing at the 55th Grammy ceremony right away. Their song Ho Hey is considered one of the best folk rock songs of more recent times.