Folk Music The Best Folk Bands/Artists  

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10k votes 869 voters 61k views 296 items
Ranker Video Actor Paul Greene Shares His Top 5 Favorite Folk Singers

Folk music is one of the most renowned genres of music in the world as shown by this list of best folk songs of 2018. Every country has its own version and derivative of the genre, which is broad in its appeal. But what makes the best folk singers and folk music artists resonate with listeners. The message reflected in folk music artist's songs is originally supposed to come from folklore, hence the name, but as of late, folk songs have retained a more populist message, with the genre's mainstream pinnacle coming in the 1960s. Usually, folk singers and folk bands play acoustic instruments.

So, who are the best folk music artists and best folk singers? That's not an easy question to answer. But if you're a fan of folk music, you'll know that artists like Woody Guthrie, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell deserve to be at or near the top of this list of folk music bands. This list should include all folk music bands, whether new and current or classic oldies, including the most popular folk musicians and folk singers, and if you notice this isn't the case, feel free to add them to this list. All of the best folk music artists need to be accounted for, and the goal of this list of folk music bands is to do exactly that.

That said it's up to you to decide who are the best folk music artists and best folk singers. This list answers the questions "who are the best folk music bands of all time?", "Who is the best folk artist today?" and "who is the greatest folk music musician ever?" If you know enough about the genre, please vote based on the quality of the band's music instead of just voting for the most popular folk music bands that you might've heard of. (296 items)

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list ordered by
1
236 76
Bob Dylan is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Folk Bands/Artists
jerrycstanaway added Highway 61 Revisited, Blood on the Tracks, Blonde on Blonde
Bob Dylan is an American singer-songwriter, artist, and writer. He has been influential in popular music and culture for more than five decades. Much of his most celebrated work dates from the ...more
2
118 48
Woody Guthrie is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Folk Bands/Artists
The Asch Recordings, Volumes 1-4, Columbia River Collection
Woodrow Wilson "Woody" Guthrie was an American singer-songwriter and musician whose musical legacy includes hundreds of political, traditional and children's songs, ballads and ...more
3
137 62
Jim Croce is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Folk Bands/Artists
Simply the Best: Time in a Bottle: His Greatest Hits, Jim Croce Smash Hits, Singer Songwriter
James Joseph "Jim" Croce was an American singer-songwriter. Between 1966 and 1973, Croce released five studio albums and 11 singles. His singles "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" and ...more
4
127 56
Neil Young is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Folk Bands/Artists
chip-chop added Harvest, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, After the Gold Rush
Neil Young is a singer-songwriter, Musician,film score composer, film producer, film director, actor and screenwriter.
5
93 35
James Taylor is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Folk Bands/Artists
chip-chop added Sweet Baby James, A Christmas Album, James Taylor at Christmas
James Vernon Taylor is an American singer-songwriter and guitarist. A five-time Grammy Award winner, Taylor was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. Taylor achieved his ...more
6
147 72
Joni Mitchell is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Folk Bands/Artists
Blue, Court and Spark, Ladies of the Canyon
Roberta Joan "Joni" Mitchell, CC, is a Canadian singer-songwriter and painter. Mitchell began singing in small nightclubs in Saskatchewan and Western Canada and then busking in the ...more
7
133 64
John Denver is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Folk Bands/Artists
Rocky Mountain Christmas, Christmas Like a Lullaby, A Christmas Together
Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr., known professionally as John Denver, was an American singer-songwriter, actor, activist and humanitarian, whose greatest commercial success was as a solo singer, ...more
8
123 58
Joan Baez is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Folk Bands/Artists
Speaking of Dreams, Gracias a la Vida, The Joan Baez Country Music Album
Joan Baez is an American folk singer, songwriter, musician, and activist whose contemporary folk music often includes songs of protest or social justice. Baez has performed publicly for over 55 ...more
9
117 57
Gordon Lightfoot is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Folk Bands/Artists
Endless Wire, If You Could Read My Mind, Summer Side of Life
Gordon Meredith Lightfoot, Jr. CC OOnt is a Canadian singer-songwriter who achieved international success in folk, folk-rock, and country music, and has been credited for helping define the ...more
10
119 61
Leonard Cohen is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Folk Bands/Artists
Songs of Leonard Cohen, Songs of Love and Hate, Old Ideas
Leonard Norman Cohen, CC GOQ is a Canadian singer–songwriter, musician, poet, and novelist. His work has explored religion, politics, isolation, sexuality, and personal relationships. Cohen has ...more
11
65 25
Cat Stevens is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Folk Bands/Artists
samtheguitarman added
12
69 29
Carole King is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Folk Bands/Artists
chip-chop added Tapestry, Wrap Around Joy, Music
Carole King is a Grammy Award-winning New York born composer and singer-songwriter. Her career began in the 1960s when King, along with her then husband Gerry Goffin, wrote more than two dozen ...more
13
62 33
Linda Ronstadt is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Folk Bands/Artists
A Merry Little Christmas, Heart Like a Wheel, What's New
Linda Maria Ronstadt is an American popular music singer. She has earned 11 Grammy Awards, three American Music Awards, two Academy of Country Music awards, an Emmy Award, an ALMA Award, and ...more
14
65 38
Donovan is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Folk Bands/Artists
chip-chop added Definitive Collection, Fairytale, 25 Years in Concert: The Classics Live
Donovan is a British singer, songwriter and guitarist. He developed an eclectic and distinctive style that blended folk, jazz, pop, psychedelia, and world music. He has lived in Scotland, London ...more
15
42 18
The Weavers is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Folk Bands/Artists
gnicholls added Wasn't That a Time, Reunion at Carnegie Hall - 1963, Kisses Sweeter Than Wine
The Weavers were an American folk music quartet based in the Greenwich Village area of New York City. They sang traditional folk songs from around the world, as well as blues, gospel music, ...more
16
75 50
John Prine is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Folk Bands/Artists
John Prine, A John Prine Christmas, Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings
John Prine is an American country/folk singer-songwriter. He has been active as a composer, recording artist, and live performer since the early 1970s. Born and raised in Maywood, Illinois, ...more
17
65 44
Kris Kristofferson is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Folk Bands/Artists
Kristofferson, Full Moon, A Star Is Born
Kristoffer "Kris" Kristofferson is an American singer, songwriter, musician, actor, and former soldier. He is known for writing and recording such hits as "Me and Bobby ...more
18
32 17
Carly Simon is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Folk Bands/Artists
chip-chop added Christmas Is Almost Here, Christmas Is Almost Here Again, Spoiled Girl
Carly Elisabeth Simon is an American singer-songwriter, musician and children's author. She first rose to fame in the 1970s with a string of hit records; her 13 Top 40 U.S. hits include ...more
19
34 19
Stephen Stills is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Folk Bands/Artists
chip-chop added Carry On, Super Session, Stephen Stills 2
Stephen Arthur Stills is an American musician and multi-instrumentalist best known for his work with Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills & Nash. He performed on a professional level in ...more
20
49 34
John Sebastian is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Folk Bands/Artists
Welcome Back, John B. Sebastian, Faithful Virtue: The Reprise Recordings
John Benson Sebastian is an American singer, songwriter, guitarist and autoharpist. He is best known as a founder of The Lovin' Spoonful, a band inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in ...more
21
38 25
Fairport Convention is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Folk Bands/Artists
gnicholls added
Fairport Convention is Fairport Convention's debut album. The band formed in 1967, with original line-up Judy Dyble and Ian MacDonald, Richard Thompson and Simon Nicol, Ashley “Tyger” Hutchings ...more
22
42 35
Richard Thompson is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Folk Bands/Artists
bri-gri added Shoot Out the Lights, I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight, Walking on a Wire: 1968-2009
Richard John Thompson OBE is a British songwriter, guitarist and recording and performing musician. Thompson was awarded the Orville H. Gibson award for best acoustic guitar player in 1991. ...more
23
35 29
Buffy Sainte-Marie is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Folk Bands/Artists
Fire & Fleet & Candlelight, I'm Gonna Be a Country Girl Again, Up Where We Belong
Buffy Sainte-Marie, OC is a Canadian-American Cree singer-songwriter, musician, composer, visual artist, educator, pacifist, and social activist. Throughout her career in all of these areas, her ...more
24
23 19
Chet Atkins is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Folk Bands/Artists
East Tennessee Christmas, Chester & Lester, Simpatico
Chester Burton "Chet" Atkins was an American guitarist, occasional vocalist and record producer who, along with Owen Bradley, created the smoother country music style known as the ...more
25
35 33
Janis Ian is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Folk Bands/Artists
Miracle Row, Unreleased 1: Mary's Eyes, Hunger
Janis Ian is a singer-songwriter who was mostly active in the 1960s and 1970s; her most successful song "At Seventeen", was released as a single from her 1975 album Between the Lines ...more