The $64,000 Question: What is folk music?

The other day we were having an interesting discussion around the studios as to whether or not we should play The Flatlanders‘ new album Wheels of Fortune. Some said that while it is a great album–we should stay away from it because “it isn’t folk music, it’s country music.”

Well, this led into a lengthy argument (excuse me–lengthy “discussion and open exchange of ideas”) about what is folk music and what isn’t.

It reminded me of a interview I read with Richard Thompson where he stated that Metallica was folk music. Richard reasoned that, to him, folk music was any music that is learned or passed on from person to person. He felt folk music is organic and unschooled, rather than something taught with rigor in an academic environment. The Jack Black movie School of Rock aside–under Richard’s definition (and frankly, few others), Metallica would indeed qualify as folk music.

What do you think? What qualifies something as bonefide “folk music”? Click on the “Comments” link below and share your definition of folk music.

And in case you’re interested, Jim and I won the Flatlanders argument–you’ll hear two cuts from Wheels of Fortune on Folk Alley soon!

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