Top 100 Most Essential Folk Songs

See the list of the very best 100 folk songs of all time

FolkAlley.com went online in September 2003, offering live-streaming music twenty four hours a day.  The hosted stream is produced by WKSU-FM in Kent, Ohio, which also built and maintains the web site.  The Folk Alley playlist is created by senior host, Jim Blum, and Folk Alley Music Director Linda Fahey and features a distinctive blend of the best of singer/songwriter, Celtic, acoustic, Americana, traditional, and world sounds.  It’s a nice website – well worth checking out.

Folk Alley, which has over 100,000 registered listeners, recently called for votes from its faithful for the most essential folk songs of all time.  The results are below. Some of the most-mentioned performers are Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Paul Simon, Pete Seeger, The Kingston Trio, Gordon Lightfoot, Tom Paxton, Joni Mitchell and John Prine.

100 Most Essential Folk Songs Of All Time

1 This Land Is Your Land – Woody Guthrie
2 Blowin’ in the Wind – Bob Dylan
3 City of New Orleans – Steve Goodman
4 If I Had a Hammer – Pete Seeger
5 Where Have All The Flowers Gone – The Kingston Trio
6 Early Morning Rain – Gordon Lightfoot
7 Suzanne – Leonard Cohen
8 We Shall Overcome – Pete Seeger
9 Four Strong Winds – Ian and Sylvia
10 Last Thing On My Mind – Tom Paxton

11 The Circle Game – Joni Mitchell
12 Tom Dooley – The Kingston Trio (Trad)
13 Both Sides Now – Joni Mitchell
14 Who Knows Where The Time Goes – Sandy Denny
15 Goodnight Irene – The Weavers (Trad)
16 Universal Soldier – Buffy St Marie
17 Don’t Think Twice – Bob Dylan
18 Diamonds and Rust – Joan Baez
19 Sounds of Silence – Simon & Garfunkel
20 The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald – Gordon Lightfoot

21 Alice’s Restaurant – Arlo Guthrie
22 Turn, Turn, Turn – The Byrds (Pete Seeger)
23 Puff The Magic Dragon – Peter, Paul and Mary
24 Thirsty Boots – Eric Andersen
25 There But For Fortune – Phil Ochs
26 Across The Great Divide – Kate Wolf
27 The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down – The Band (Robbie Robertson)
28 The Dutchman – Steve Goodman
29 Matty Groves – Fairport Convention (Trad)
30 Pastures of Plenty – Woody Guthrie

Canadian Railroad Trilogy – Gordon Lightfoot
Ramblin’ Boy – Tom Paxton
Hello In There – John Prine
The Mary Ellen Carter – Stan Rogers
Scarborough Fair – Martin Carthy (Trad)
Freight Train – Elizabeth Cotton
Like a Rolling Stone – Bob Dylan
Paradise – John Prine
Northwest Passage – Stan Rogers

And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda – Eric Bogle
Changes – Phil Ochs
Streets of London – Ralph McTell
Gentle On My Mind – John Hartford
Barbara Allen – Shirley Collins (Trad)
Little Boxes – Malvina Reynolds
The Water is Wide – Traditional
Blue Moon of Kentucky – Bill Monroe
No Regrets – Tom Rush
Amazing Grace – Odetta (Trad)

Catch The Wind – Donovan
If I Were a Carpenter – Tim Hardin
Big Yellow Taxi – Joni Mitchell
House of the Rising Sun – Doc & Richard Watson (Trad)
Kisses Sweeter Than Wine – The Weavers
Tangled Up In Blue – Bob Dylan
The Boxer – Simon and Garfunkel
Someday Soon – Ian and Sylvia
500 Miles – Peter, Paul and Mary
Masters of War – Bob Dylan

Wildwood Flower – Carter Family
Can The Circle Be Unbroken – Carter Family
Can’t Help But Wonder Where I’m Bound – Tom Paxton
Teach Your Children – Crosby, Stills Nash & Young
Deportee – Woody Guthrie
Tecumseh Valley – Towns Van Zandt
Mr. Bojangles – Jerry Jeff Walker
Cold Missouri Waters – James Keeleghan
The Crucifixion – Phil Ochs
Angel from Montgomery – John Prine

Christmas in the Trenches – John McCutcheon
John Henry – Traditional
Pack Up Your Sorrows – Richard and Mimi Farina
Dirty Old Town – Ewan MacColl
Caledonia – Dougie MacLean
Gentle Arms of Eden – Dave Carter
My Back Pages – Bob Dylan
Arrow – Cheryl Wheeler
Hallelujah – Leonard Cohen
Eve of Destruction – Barry McGuire

Man of Constant Sorrow – Ralph Stanley (Trad)
Shady Grove – Traditional
Pancho and Lefty – Townes Van Zandt
Old Man – Neil Young
Mr. Tambourine Man – Bob Dylan
American Tune – Paul Simon
At Seventeen – Janis Ian
Bridge Over Troubled Water – Simon & Garfunkel
Road – Nick Drake
Tam Lin – Fairport Convention (Trad)

Ashokan Farewell – Jay Ungar and Molly Mason
Desolation Row – Bob Dylan
Love Is Our Cross To Bear – John Gorka
Hobo’s Lullaby – Woody Guthrie
Urge For Going – Tom Rush
Return of the Grievous Angel – Gram Parsons
Chilly Winds – The Kingston Trio
Fountain of Sorrow – Jackson Browne
The Times They Are A Changing – Bob Dylan
Our Town – Iris Dement
Leaving on a Jet Plane – John Denver




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See the list of the very best 100 folk songs of all time

See the list of the very best 100 folk songs of all time

See the list of the very best 100 folk songs of all time



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Author: Rob Dickens

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  1. One glaring omission here – “Beeswing” by Richard Thompson

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    • Good point Barry. That song is a corker. At least there’s some Fairport material there…

      Post a Reply
      • Could you send me your email address as opposed to your blog site. Would feel more comfortable communicating with you. Old school, you know how it is.

        Post a Reply
  2. I believe what you published made a lot of sense. But, what about
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  3. Hi there! Do you know if they make any plugins to safeguard against hackers?
    I’m kinda paranoid about losing evgerything I’ve worked
    hard on. Any tips?

    Post a Reply
    • Hi. I’m using wordpress.com which is tailor made – no plug in facility. WordPress.org users have plug ins. I’ve been doing this blog for about two years and have had no security problems at all. I do get some spam comments, but can trash those readily. Sorry I couldn’t help more.

      Post a Reply
    • Hi Rob,

      Sorry, not that technical enough to safeguard against ‘hackers’, which is what I thought Apple and the iCloud do for me. I would think that someone like Richard would be a better person to ask than a moron like myself.

      Anyway, besides that, when are you coming home? Marnee and I are pretty keen to go next year to the Americana Awards, if you would like to take some extra travelling companions.

      Not much chance at this stage that the Saints are going to be in Grand Final contention for the foreseeable future. And by the way, congratulations on such an impressive demolition of Sydney, it was really great to watch a group of players so on their game.

      Post a Reply
      • Hey Barry

        I’ll be back on 22 October. I’m currently in Bristol on the border of Tennessee and Virginia. Two more music festivals to go. Good to hear of your Americana plans. I have every intention of returning next year. I know of a couple of lock-ins already. Be great to have you and Marnee aboard – you will love it!

        Watched the Grand Final on my iPad from about halfway through the first quarter. Hawks were ferocious. I was rapt and surprised! Kept waiting for the Swans revival but didn’t happen.

        Hope you are healthy and well.

        If you are going to Out On The Weekend, could you get let Jim Know, he is coming over for it and would appreciate the company I reckon.

        Say hi to Marnie

        Sorry for the delay in responding

        See you when I get back


        Post a Reply
  4. Hey there would you mind letting me know which webhost you’re working with?
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    Post a Reply
  5. I see you have Freight train by Elizabeth Cotten . What about Shake Sugaree?

    Post a Reply
    • Yeah, another great song which has become classic. Maybe Rhiannon Giddens has covered it most recently? Thanks for raising!

      Post a Reply

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