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Arts & Culture

Exploring The Vastness Of Folk Music


What is folk music? Phillip Phillips sounds like a folk singer, but he won American Idol. Does that disqualify him? Charles Bradley is the living embodiment of the sound of James Brown, but he played the main stage at the Newport Folk Festival last year. A few years ago, Richard Thompson started covering Britney Spears' "Oops I Did It Again," as a folk tune, even playing part of it "in the manner of the 16th century."

So what is folk music? I'm tempted to revert to the wisdom of the great umpire Bill Klem, who famously said, "It ain't nothing until I call it." 
Maybe something is folk music if somebody says it is. If Susan Forbes Hansen plays it on her radio show, if Kate Callahan features it at her brand new HartFolk Festival, maybe it's folk song. Today on our show, all the things that could conceivably count as folk music. 
Leave your comments below, email us colin@wnpr.org, or tweet us @wnprcolin.

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Colin McEnroe is a radio host, newspaper columnist, magazine writer, author, playwright, lecturer, moderator, college instructor and occasional singer. Colin can be reached at colin@ctpublic.org.

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