Return of Folk Music

folk music

There seems to be a new music form emerging on the scene. Well, it’s not actually new, it’s been around for a while, but it’s making a resurgence. It is folk music. Folk music is actually been around for many decades. It’s popularity grew during the beatnick times of the ’50s. Then as the hippie counterculture became more and more popular, folk music began to emerge as a way to convey a social message of change and reform. It really fell in line with the love and freedom vibe that was coming forth throughout that time. People staged love-ins to share ideas and concepts, and the gatherings usually were flavored with various folk tunes. It was a softer and gentler way for music to get a point across.It was also radio friendly, and allowed many stations to play the tunes for a wide audience with very little push back from the community.

And it was generally peaceful in nature. As the 70s came on, more harder forms of rock came forth, and folk music sort of faded back into the back room. In the 90s, coffee shops started coming forward is a new hangout spot. Starbucks emerged out of Seattle and became popular nationwide. More than just a place to get a cup of coffee. Hanging out became a mode of relaxation, and the need for entertainment in these places was seen. Being as it was a public gathering, acoustic guitars and keyboards were the instruments of choice to entertain the java hungry souls.

coffeehouse guitar player

Guitarists started performing for the occupants, while they sucked up on their Joe. Usually the melodies were folk and/or country related. It was soothing music for people to listen to while they enjoy the coffee. This form of music came to be known as coffeehouse. But it has its roots in traditional folk melodies. As coffeehouse music popularity grew, people started creating the music outside of the houses, and the reemergence of folk music was complete. As it is a soothing and peaceful form, it may go back into the shadows over time, but it will never fully go away.

Rise and Fall and Rise of Seattle Music

The Seattle music scene was the best time of my life. It was a great time to be young and passionate about music. My first job was as a road hand for The Davanos(that’s why I rebuilt this site). I would meet them at their houses, help pick up their gear, and we would get set up for the show. I would have a front row seat for all gigs, and got to meet some of the greatest bands around. Then the 90s hit, and you know what happened then. Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden hit the scene really hard, and took the entire scene to the top of the charts. These were guys they have been playing roller rinks and high schools for years and now all of the sudden they were superstars. The end result was devastating to many of the bands.

local seattle bands

There were deaths, overdoses, and broken families left in the wake. I think many of them weren’t used to that level of success, and didn’t know how to handle it. They had more money than they could spend, and more attention than one person should ever have. The life was a constant party and along with that went large amounts of drugs and alcohol. After the death of Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley, many of the musicians took a break, and some even left the business. John Kois came back to Pennsylvania where I saw him at a Starbucks, and said the he started teaching beginning drum lessons . Mark Phillips headed for New York and the last I heard he was teaching music theory at NYU.

the seattle greats

The scene was devastated with the loss of so many greats that the term grunge became synonymous with self-destruction. That’s not to say that everybody went down that road. There were bands like Mudhoney, The Melvins, and the Screaming Trees who did relatively well and stayed on that positive path throughout their careers. They flew just under the radar to avoid succumbing to the large-scale success that destroyed many people, and led steady hard-working lives and the field that they knew and loved. I hope to go back to Seattle someday and reminisce with some of my old friends about the music scene. But my main goal will be to see if the soul has returned to the area that made it such a Haven for that brave counterculture.

How Musicians Get Their Start

kids getting started in music

Music throughout the ages has inspired every new artist that comes on the scene. They grow up listening to their parents music and start to see what they like and don’t like. After awhile they are able to purchase their own, and build a collection that they will always cherish. That’s when the creative soul starts to dream of being a part of the music they love. If they start early enough the educational system supports this activity through many after school programs. They are given a forum for their craft, and are aligned with other students with the same interest. Many a famous musician started in their school band where they were given the proper guidance.

I think though the more impressive ones are the ones that are self taught. It takes more grit and gusto to stay true to your trade on your own, without the influence of others. Such talented musicians spend hours every day practicing with only themselves for feedback. I am always amazed at the rock star that started playing in coffee shops for free, or worse had to sign up for “pay to play” gigs at local clubs. It takes a certain individual to keep striving for greatness, even when they can’t pay their rent. To them, the music is all that matters. True musicians don’t care if they every make any money. The joy is bringing it to people, and putting a smile on their face.

Elvis Presley-He and his family lived in a run down shack after the great depression. They were later evicted from that shack when his father was put in jail. He worked many difficult jobs; squirreling his money away until he got his big break.

Ringo Starr-He also came from a very poor family who barely scraped by. On top of that he was hospitalized many time with various ailments, and was in a near death coma for 2 months.

Tracy Chapman-Not so an extreme of an example, but she started on the streets singing for strangers. The area she played in required a permit from the city, which she had a tough time getting. She persevered, and the rest is history.

So when you envy a famous musician, just remember that they started somewhere. They had to encompass a dream and bring it into fruition. As you can see from the stars above, that wasn’t an easy task. The level of commitment to their cause, kept them on their chosen path.