The closest equivalent in Britain to American folk pioneers Woody Guthrie
and Pete Seeger
is Ewan MacColl
widely regarded as the father of the modern British folk movement. It was MacColl who wrote the old favourite "Dirty Old Town"
about his native Salford, and "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face"
for his wife Peggy Seeger
nine years before Roberta Flack
had a hit with it. But it wasn't until the coming of Bob Dylan
that the British folk movement really
began to find a voice within the mainstream.
The earliest manifestations of this include the romantic idealism of Scottish singer Donovan
and the more traditional output
of Ralph McTell
. A little later came John Martyn
, who wrote "Solid Air"
for Nick Drake
, an artist elevated
to cult status in recent years following his unfortunate death in 1974.
As the modern movement has grown and diversified the true folkie has become rarer and rarer, replaced by more introspective singer-songwriters,
some of whom have embraced folk-rock and the pop production techniques which have become more prevalent within the industry.
Traditions of political protest and social commentry inherent in folk have remained alive, however, in the hands of artists such as
Roy Harper, Labi Siffre, Richard Thompson
and Billy Bragg
, and the singer-songwriter tradition continues to throw up talents such as
P.J. Harvey, David Gray, Damon Gough
, a.k.a. Badly Drawn Boy
and Richard Hawley