Singing Out

Singing Out (Oxford University Press, 2010)

Singing Out
(Oxford University Press, 2010)

Published by Oxford University Press.
Foreword by Pete Seeger.

“Intimate, anecdotal, and spell-binding, Singing Out offers a fascinating oral history of the North American folk music revivals and folk music. Culled from more than 150 interviews recorded from 1976 to 2006, this captivating story spans seven decades and cuts across a wide swath of generations and perspectives, shedding light on the musical, political, and social aspects of this movement. The narrators highlight many of the major folk revival figures, including Pete Seeger, Bernice Reagon, Phil Ochs, Mary Travers, Don McLean, Judy Collins, Arlo Guthrie, Ry Cooder, and Holly Near. Together they tell the stories of such musical groups as the Composers’ Collective, the Almanac Singers, People’s Songs, the Weavers, the New Lost City Ramblers, and the Freedom Singers. Folklorists, musicians, musicologists, writers, activists, and aficionados reveal not only what happened during the folk revivals, but what it meant to those personally and passionately involved. For everyone who ever picked up a guitar, fiddle, or banjo, this will be a book to give and cherish. Extensive notes, bibliography, and discography, plus a photo section.”


  • Covers seven decades of American folk music through more than 150 interviews along with histories of musical groups
  • Foreword by Pete Seeger
  • Provides a longer view of the American folk music revival, dating back to the Great Depression
  • Includes interviews with name-brand folkies, such as the Seegers, Arlo Guthrie, and Holly Near
  • Includes biographical sketches of folk figures referenced in the text, plus bibliography, discography, and index
  • Provides explanatory footnotes and biographical notes so as to be accessible to readers who have followed folk revivalism for years, as well as younger readers approaching the subject for the first time
  • Presents a broader treatment of the surveillance, interrogation, and blacklisting of musicians and musical organizations during the McCarthy era than previous folk music history books have done by drawing on documents released under Dunaway v. Kelley
  • Provides an intimate, first-person, and anecdotal, and thus a vibrant companion to traditional academic histories, with chapters that match many history textbooks


“The authors have spent quite a bit of time addressing the critical, interesting, and important question: ‘What is folk music?’ Defining folk music is not only difficult and complex, it’s slipperier than a greased eel! Through the use of extensive quotes and interviews Beer and Dunaway revisit the folk revival head-on, causing me to rethink the role individuals as diverse as Tristam Coffin, Pete Seeger, Mississippi John Hurt played during this important period in American music history.” –Kip Lornell, The George Washington University, author of The NPR Curious Listener’s Guide to American Folk Music, Introducing American Folk Music, and The Life and Legend of Leadbelly (with Charles K. Wolfe)

“Dunaway and Beer’s Singing Out is a marvelous stew of original quotations mixed with the editors’ astute discussions of the historical contexts. Drawing upon a broad array of musicians, academics, collectors, and writers, they have covered the twentieth century into the twenty-first, with some focus on the importance of protest/political songs. This is now the starting place for any understanding of the role of folk music in American society, and should spawn future studies, particularly dealing with the post-1970s period.” –Ronald D. Cohen, author of Rainbow Quest: The Folk Music Revival and American Society, 1940-1970

“This intriguing history of American folk music in the 20th century by its performers and participants will appeal to academics, folk music aficionados, and musicians.”–Library Journal

“[A] marvelous resource for anyone interested in American folk music.”–Booklist

“Fascinating.”–Albuquerque Journal

“An important and excellent new book…Uncover[s] the true life of folk music in North America as it progressed through the world-altering twentieth century.” –The Journal of Music

“All fans and scholars of folk music and American History will value this study. Highly recommended.” –Choice

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this book…It captures vividly the spirit of the musical movement that became so powerful in the 1960s.” –Allan M. Winkler, Times Higher Education

“Weaves together historical narrative and excerpts of these interviews to fashion an insightful overview of the American folk music movement.” –Sound Historian

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