Historical Research: Using Varied Sources
Locate recordings of the work of American folk musicians from the Depression to the present. For example, you might look for songs by Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly (Huddie Ledbetter), Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, or Arlo Guthrie, or you can choose another performer who sings folk songs. Compare the subjects, melodies, and rhythms of their songs with those recorded by the Florida Folklife Project. To what extent were the folk songs recorded in Florida emblematic of folk music in other parts of the nation or in later time periods? What can you learn about our nation's history just from listening to the songs? What are the strengths and weaknesses of songs as historical sources?
Choose a folk song that is especially meaningful to you. Find another type of source about the song; for example, you might find liner notes from a record album or CD, a biography of the songwriter or performer, or a music historian's discussion of the music of the era in which the song originated or was popular. How does this additional information help you to put the song within its historical context?