The 1980s were a decade of musical diversity, with many new genres and subgenres emerging, including folk music that saw an evolution from the traditional to the contemporary. In this article, we will take a look at the best 10 folk songs of the 80s that were released between 1980 and 1989, and include links to videos for each song.
«The Times They Are A-Changin’» by Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan’s «The Times They Are A-Changin’» was released in 1984 and remains one of the most iconic folk songs of the 80s. Its powerful message about social and political change still resonates with listeners today.
«Luka» by Suzanne Vega
Released in 1987, «Luka» by Suzanne Vega is a haunting song that deals with the issue of child abuse. The song’s simple guitar melody and Vega’s emotive voice make it a memorable folk song of the 80s.
«The Wild Places» by Dan Fogelberg
Released in 1985, «The Wild Places» by Dan Fogelberg is a soulful and poetic song about the beauty of nature. The song’s melody and lyrics are beautifully intertwined, creating a memorable folk song of the 80s.
«The Ghost in You» by The Psychedelic Furs
«The Ghost in You» by The Psychedelic Furs was released in 1984 and combines elements of folk rock and new wave. The song’s melody and lyrics create a dreamy and atmospheric soundscape, making it a standout folk song of the 80s.
«Don’t Dream It’s Over» by Crowded House
Released in 1986, «Don’t Dream It’s Over» by Crowded House is a heartfelt ballad that deals with the theme of perseverance in relationships. The song’s memorable chorus and Neil Finn’s emotive vocals make it a classic folk song of the 80s.
«Love Will Tear Us Apart» by Joy Division
Released in 1980, «Love Will Tear Us Apart» by Joy Division is a melancholic and haunting folk song that deals with the theme of lost love. Ian Curtis’ emotive vocals and the song’s minimalist arrangement make it a classic of 80s folk music.
«Fast Car» by Tracy Chapman
Released in 1988, «Fast Car» by Tracy Chapman is a powerful and emotive folk ballad that tells the story of a young woman struggling to escape poverty and a dead-end life. With its haunting melody and soulful vocals, the song became an instant classic and remains one of the most beloved folk songs of the 80s.
The lyrics describe the narrator’s desire for a better life, and her dreams of escaping with her lover in a fast car. As the song progresses, it becomes clear that these dreams will never be realized, and that the narrator’s life is a constant struggle against poverty and hopelessness. Despite the sadness and despair in the lyrics, «Fast Car» remains a powerful and uplifting song that continues to resonate with listeners today.
Tracy Chapman‘s performance in the song is remarkable, with her unique voice perfectly conveying the emotion and vulnerability of the narrator. The song’s simple yet powerful instrumentation, which includes only an acoustic guitar and a harmonica, adds to the raw and intimate feel of the track.
«Fast Car» was a massive hit for Tracy Chapman, reaching the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and winning the Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance in 1989. It has been covered by numerous artists over the years, including Boyce Avenue and Sam Smith, and remains a timeless classic of folk songs of the 80s.
«The River» by Bruce Springsteen
«The River» is a classic rock folk songs of the 80s from Bruce Springsteen’s 1980 album of the same name. The song tells the story of a young man who dreams of escaping his small town and finding a better life, but ultimately realizes that the river that runs through his town is both a source of comfort and a reminder of the limitations of his world.
Springsteen’s signature raspy vocals are particularly effective on «The River,» conveying the longing and frustration of the song’s protagonist. The song’s sparse instrumentation, including acoustic guitar, harmonica, and piano, adds to the introspective and haunting feel of the track.
«The River» was a commercial and critical success, reaching the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and earning Springsteen a Grammy nomination for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance. It remains one of Springsteen’s most beloved and enduring songs, and has been covered by numerous artists over the years.
«Copperhead Road» by Steve Earle
Steve Earle’s «Copperhead Road» is a unique blend of folk, rock, and country music that perfectly captures the rebellious spirit of the 80s. Released in 1988, the song tells the story of a Vietnam War veteran who returns home to rural Appalachia and begins making moonshine and selling drugs to survive.
With its driving beat, distorted guitar riffs, and catchy chorus, «Copperhead Road» stands out from other folk songs of the era. The song’s lyrics also explore themes of family, loyalty, and the struggle to survive in a harsh and unforgiving world.
Earle’s distinctive voice and rough-hewn delivery add to the gritty and authentic feel of the track, while the song’s memorable melody and infectious energy make it a favorite of audiences and critics alike.
«Fisherman’s Blues» by The Waterboys
«Fisherman’s Blues» is a classic folk rock song by the Scottish-Irish band The Waterboys, released in 1988. The song is known for its rousing chorus and uplifting melody, which evoke the joy and freedom of being out on the open water.
The lyrics tell the story of a fisherman who dreams of leaving behind the mundane and predictable life on land to pursue his passion for fishing. The song’s protagonist imagines himself sailing out to sea with nothing but his fishing gear and the wide open horizon ahead of him, free from the constraints and obligations of his daily life.
«Fisherman’s Blues» features a wide range of instruments, including fiddle, mandolin, and accordion, which give the song a distinctive Celtic flavor. The song’s infectious energy and joyful spirit have made it a beloved classic in the folk rock genre.
Conclusion Folk Songs of the 80s:
The 80s was a decade of great music, and folk music was no exception. From the haunting melodies of Tracy Chapman’s «Fast Car» to the rebellious spirit of Steve Earle’s «Copperhead Road,» these 10 folk songs capture the essence of the era and continue to inspire and resonate with audiences today.
Whether you’re a longtime fan of folk music or just discovering the genre, these songs are sure to leave a lasting impression. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the sounds of the best folk songs of the 80s.