Music

The Best Folk Bands/Artists  

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11.4k votes 1k voters 65.7k views 298 items

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. (298 items)

list ordered by
1
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 (born Robert Allen Zimmerman; May 24, 1941) is an American singer-songwriter, author, poet, and visual artist who has been a major figure in popular culture for more than fifty years. ...more

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#2 of 298 The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters #13 of 2,186 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Timefeaturing The Best Bob Dylan Songs

2
Dave Giummo is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Folk Bands/Artists
Folk Melody added Lullaby For Nature
3
Joni Mitchell is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Folk Bands/Artists
Blue, Court and Spark, Ladies of the Canyon
Roberta Joan "Joni" Mitchell (née Anderson; born November 7, 1943) is a Canadian singer-songwriter. Drawing from folk, pop, rock, and jazz, Mitchell's songs often reflect social ...more

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#33 of 298 The Greatest Living Rock Songwritersfeaturing The Best Joni Mitchell Albums of All Timelisted on Famous Friends of David Geffen

4
Woody Guthrie is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Folk Bands/Artists
The Asch Recordings, Volumes 1-4, Columbia River Collection
Woodrow Wilson Guthrie (; July 14, 1912 – October 3, 1967) was an American singer-songwriter, one of the most significant figures in American folk music; his music, including songs, such as ...more

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#222 of 2,186 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Timefeaturing Woody Guthrie Wrote Songs About His Distaste For Fred Trumplisted on People On Stamps: List Of People On US Postage

5
Neil Young is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Folk Bands/Artists
chip-chop added Harvest, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, After the Gold Rush
Neil Percival Young (born November 12, 1945) is a Canadian singer-songwriter. After embarking on a music career in the 1960s, he moved to Los Angeles, where he formed Buffalo Springfield with ...more

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#8 of 298 The Greatest Living Rock Songwritersfeaturing The Best Neil Young Albums of All Timelisted on Famous Friends of Dave Grohl

6
Joan Baez is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Folk Bands/Artists
Speaking of Dreams, Gracias a la Vida, The Joan Baez Country Music Album
Joan Chandos Baez (; born January 9, 1941) is an American singer, songwriter, musician and activist. Her contemporary folk music often includes songs of protest or social justice. Baez has ...more

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#430 of 2,186 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Timefeaturing The Best Joan Baez Albums of All Timelisted on List of Famous Bisexual People

7
Jim Croce is listed (or ranked) 7 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 Croce (; January 10, 1943 – September 20, 1973) was an American folk and rock singer-songwriter. Between 1966 and 1973, Croce released five studio albums and numerous singles. He ...more

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#406 of 2,186 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Timefeaturing The Best Jim Croce Albums of All Timelisted on Famous Christians Who Converted to Judaism

8
James Taylor is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Folk Bands/Artists
chip-chop added Sweet Baby James, A Christmas Album, James Taylor at Christmas
James Vernon Taylor (born March 12, 1948) is an American singer-songwriter and guitarist. A five-time Grammy Award winner, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. He is one ...more

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#25 of 298 The Greatest Living Rock Songwritersfeaturing The Best James Taylor Albums of All Timelisted on Guest Stars on Sesame Street

9
John Denver is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Folk Bands/Artists
Rocky Mountain Christmas, Christmas Like a Lullaby, A Christmas Together
Henry John Deutschendorf Jr. (December 31, 1943 – October 12, 1997), known professionally as John Denver, was an American singer-songwriter, record producer, actor, activist, and humanitarian, ...more

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#173 of 2,186 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #86 of 455 The Greatest Singers of the Past 30 Yearsfeaturing The Best John Denver Albums of All Time

10
Gordon Lightfoot is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Folk Bands/Artists
Endless Wire, If You Could Read My Mind, Summer Side of Life
Gordon Meredith Lightfoot Jr. (born November 17, 1938) is a Canadian singer-songwriter who achieved international success in folk, folk-rock, and country music. He is credited with helping to ...more

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#54 of 298 The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters #480 of 2,186 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Timefeaturing The Best Gordon Lightfoot Albums of All Time

11
Leonard Cohen is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Folk Bands/Artists
Songs of Leonard Cohen, Songs of Love and Hate, Old Ideas
Leonard Norman Cohen (September 21, 1934 – November 7, 2016) was a Canadian singer, songwriter, poet, and novelist. His work explored religion, politics, isolation, sexuality, and romantic ...more

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#185 of 2,186 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #252 of 455 The Greatest Singers of the Past 30 Yearsfeaturing The Best Leonard Cohen Songs of All Time

12
Cat Stevens is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Folk Bands/Artists
samtheguitarman added
13
Carole King is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Folk Bands/Artists
chip-chop added Tapestry, Wrap Around Joy, Music
Carole King (born Carol Joan Klein, February 9, 1942) is an American singer-songwriter who has been active since 1958, initially as one of the staff songwriters at the Brill Building and later ...more

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#10 of 298 The Greatest Living Rock Songwritersfeaturing The Best Carole King Albums of All Timelisted on Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance Winners List

14
The Weavers is listed (or ranked) 14 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
15
Donovan is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Folk Bands/Artists
chip-chop added Definitive Collection, Fairytale, 25 Years in Concert: The Classics Live
Donovan (born Donovan Philips Leitch, 10 May 1946) is a Scottish singer, songwriter and guitarist. He developed an eclectic and distinctive style that blended folk, jazz, pop, psychedelia, and ...more

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#275 of 466 The Best Current Pop Groups/Singersfeaturing The Best Donovan Albums of All Timelisted on Guest Stars on Futurama

16
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 (born October 10, 1946) is an American country folk singer-songwriter. He has been active as a composer, recording artist, and live performer since the early 1970s, and is known for ...more

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#101 of 298 The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters #1,117 of 2,186 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Timefeaturing The Best John Prine Albums of All Time

17
Linda Ronstadt is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Folk Bands/Artists
A Merry Little Christmas, Heart Like a Wheel, What's New
Linda Maria Ronstadt (born July 15, 1946) is a retired American popular music singer known for singing in a wide range of genres including rock, country, light opera, and Latin. She has earned ...more

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#349 of 2,186 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Timefeaturing The Best Linda Ronstadt Albums of All Timelisted on Guest Stars on Sesame Street

18
Kris Kristofferson is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Folk Bands/Artists
Kristofferson, Full Moon, A Star Is Born
Kristoffer Kristofferson (born June 22, 1936) is an American singer-songwriter and actor. Among his songwriting credits are the songs "Me and Bobby McGee", "For the Good ...more

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#36 of 298 The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters #1,640 of 2,186 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Timefeaturing The Best Kris Kristofferson Movies

19
Fairport Convention is listed (or ranked) 19 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
20
Carly Simon is listed (or ranked) 20 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 (born June 25, 1945) 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. ...more

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#59 of 298 The Greatest Living Rock Songwritersfeaturing The Best Carly Simon Songs of All Timelisted on Famous Carlys

21
Stephen Stills is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Folk Bands/Artists
chip-chop added Carry On, Super Session, Stephen Stills 2
Stephen Arthur Stills (born January 3, 1945) is an American singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist best known for his work with Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. ...more

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#174 of 298 The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters #1,361 of 2,186 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Timefeaturing The Best Stephen Stills Albums of All Time

22
John Sebastian is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Folk Bands/Artists
Welcome Back, John B. Sebastian, Faithful Virtue: The Reprise Recordings
John Benson Sebastian (born March 17, 1944) is an American singer/songwriter, guitarist, harmonicist, and autoharpist, who is best known as a founder of The Lovin' Spoonful, a band inducted into ...more

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#244 of 711 The Best Rock Vocalists #46 of 171 The Best One-Hit Wonders of the 1970s #147 of 279 The Top Pop Artists of the 1960s

23
Richard Thompson is listed (or ranked) 23 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 Thompson (born 3 April 1949) is an English singer, songwriter, and guitarist.He made his début as a recording artist as a member of Fairport Convention in September 1967. He ...more

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#89 of 298 The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters #1,407 of 2,186 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #755 of 1,066 The Best Singers of All Time

24
Buffy Sainte-Marie is listed (or ranked) 24 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 (born Beverly Sainte-Marie, c. February 20, 1941) is a Canadian-American singer-songwriter, musician, composer, visual artist, educator, pacifist, and social activist. ...more

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#952 of 2,186 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #383 of 986 The Best Female Vocalists Everlisted on Guest Stars on Sesame Street

25
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 (born Janis Eddy Fink; April 7, 1951) is an American singer-songwriter who was most commercially successful in the 1960s and 1970s; her most widely recognized song, "At ...more

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#296 of 986 The Best Female Vocalists Ever #1,034 of 2,239 The Best Rock Bands of All Timelisted on Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance Winners List