Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Folk Music

All of a sudden, it seems, I have rediscovered 60s folk music. This is not a complaint: I am loving music again. I’ve created an iPod playlist of 101 folk songs (including some that are closer to jazz, but sound enough like sixties folk to be on the list). I’m addicted to Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” and Iz Kamakawiwo’ole’s always odd version of “Over the Rainbow.” But I am also captivated by newer Joan Baez stuff and (tonight, for instance) occasionally just get swept away by Judy Collins’ “Who Knows Where the Time Goes?”

I am not sure why it happened, but I think I know how. It has been a meandering process. I moved a lot of my albums to iTunes, which gave me a chance to listen freshly to Paul Siebel and others. Then, I saw a documentary about Joan Baez, after which I understood her “Diamonds and Rust” for the first time as a song about Bob Dylan, who I continue to think writes music that tells the story of our generation (Lyrics like “Not dark yet but it’s getting there” and “I used to care, but times have changed” resonate with us aging boomers in ways only we can understand.) I started listening to Joan again. “Joe Hill” struck me as particularly fresh in this age of greedy capitalism. I downloaded “The Day After Tomorrow” and heard a fresh, more reflective sensibility in her music. It was great to see her still digging deeper. Along the way, I saw first Taj Majal and then Judy Collins at the State Theater here in State College. Then, somewhere along the line, I installed Pandora on my iPod, created a Rita Coolidge channel, and discovered new singers—Mraz, Iz, and Jack Johnson, especially. Before I knew it, these small steps had led me back to looking for guitar tabs for folk (and folk rock) songs.

Like I said, I am not complaining. The wonderful thing about this reflective, serious but often playful music is that it reminded me that I live, every minute of this life, in a world where things—good and bad—are happening and that feeling the reality of these things can make us, at minimum, more aware of the joy of being alive. That’s a good thing.