Famous American Folk Singers

Nothing sounds sweeter to the ears than songs native to one's roots and home — songs that are free from the frills and fancies of modern day music, songs that throb with the spirit of one's country. Over the years, we have seen and heard folk whiz like Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Jimmie Rodgers, Woody Guthrie and countless others belt out some pretty iconic, chest-thumping, no-nonsense music on things that matters most to the Americans — war, work, civil rights, hardship, satire and love. Folk singers, both old and new, have been source of great pride for America. Over the years, folk music has undergone a sea of changes in terms of music and lyrics. Unlike the folk singers in the past who rendered oral histories musically, today's Gen-X folk singers are way more relaxed and stirring in their tunes and lyrics. Melding folk tunes with contemporary music and lacing it with some hard-hitting, nostalgic, or dreamy lyrics, American folk music has found a new identity with the current crop of folk singers. Join us as we trail down the timeline, trivia, and interesting facts on the lives of some famous American folk singers to have ever walked on the American soil. These biographies will leave you with a newfound love for folk songs.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

Vote for Your Favourite American Folk Singers

 1 John Denver

John Denver
5
Famous As: Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: December 31, 1943
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Roswell, New Mexico, United States
Died: October 12, 1997

John Denver was one of the highest-selling and most popular singers during the 1970s. He was known for folk, pop and country music. Some of his greatest songs are Take Me Home Country Roads, Leaving on a Jet Plane, Rocky Mountain High, Sunshine on My Shoulders and Annie's Song. He died when a plane he was piloting crashed in California.

 2 Tracy Chapman

Tracy Chapman
6
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: March 30, 1964
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

A four-time Grammy Award-winning artist, singer Tracy Chapman is best known for her hit single, Give Me One Reason. Interested in music from a young age, she learned to play multiple instruments as a child. She made her major-stage debut in 1985 and soon became a sensational hit. She is also known for her social activism.

 3 John Prine

John Prine
4
Famous As: Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: October 10, 1946
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Maywood, Illinois, United States
Died: April 7, 2020

 4 Harry Belafonte

Harry Belafonte
4
Famous As: Singer, Actor
Birthdate: March 1, 1927
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: New York City, United States

 5 Paul Simon

Paul Simon
6
Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: 1991 AD
Birthplace: Newark, New Jersey, United States

One half of the popular musical duo Simon & Garfunkel, Paul Simon is a singer-songwriter, musician, and actor. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest guitarists and songwriters of all time. His career, which has spanned more than 60 years, has been so influential that Time named him among the 100 People Who Shaped the World in 2006.

 6 Linda Ronstadt

Linda Ronstadt
11
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: July 15, 1946
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Tucson, Arizona, United States

One of the world's best-selling music artists ever, Linda Ronstadt has sold over 100 million records worldwide. She performed in diverse genres, including Latin, light opera, rock, and country. She is also one of the most decorated female music artists of all time, having won prestigious awards, such as the National Medal of Arts and Humanities.

 7 Joan Chandos Baez

Joan Chandos Baez
4
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: January 9, 1941
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Staten Island, New York, United States

Singer, songwriter, musician, and activist Joan Baez has been active in the music world for over six decades. She emerged as a major musical figure in the counterculture era of the 1960s. Her music encompasses various genres like pop, folk-rock, country, and gospel music. She is involved in civil rights, human rights, and environmental activism as well.

You May Like

 8 Townes Van Zandt

Townes Van Zandt
4
Famous As: Singer & Songwriter
Birthdate: March 7, 1944
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Fort Worth, Texas
Died: January 1, 1997

Country singer Townes Van Zandt is remembered for his melancholy and lyrical tracks. His hits such as Pancho and Lefty and To Live Is to Fly have influenced many artists of subsequent generations. He struggled with depression and spent a considerable part of his life in cheap shacks and motels.

 9 Art Garfunkel

Art Garfunkel
4
Famous As: Singer, Actor
Birthdate: November 5, 1941
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Forest Hills, New York City, United States
Eight-time Grammy winner Art Garfunkel is part of the folk-rock duo Simon & Garfunkel, along with Paul Simon. He has had a successful solo career, too. One of Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Singers of All Time, he also earned a Golden Globe nomination for playing Sandy in Carnal Knowledge.

 10 Woody Guthrie

Woody Guthrie
4
Famous As: Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: July 14, 1912
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Okemah, Oklahoma, United States
Died: October 3, 1967
Legendary folk singer Woody Guthrie is best remembered for his songs such as This Land Is Your Land and Cocaine Blues, and the concept album Dust Bowl Ballads. He inspired artists such as Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, and performed with a guitar labeled “This machine kills fascists.”

 11 Jim Croce

Jim Croce
4
Famous As: Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: January 10, 1943
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: September 20, 1973

Jim Croce was an American rock and folk singer-songwriter. At the peak of his popularity, Jim Croce died in a plane crash at age 30. Many of his works were released posthumously and achieved popularity. Jim Croce's music has been used in many popular films, such as The Hangover Part II, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and Hobbs & Shaw.

 12 Jewel

Jewel
9
Famous As: Singer-Songwriter
Birthdate: May 23, 1974
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Payson, Utah, United States

 13 Arlo Guthrie

Arlo Guthrie
4
Famous As: Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: July 10, 1947
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Coney Island, New York, United States
Folk singer Arlo Guthrie is known for his songs that have prominent social themes and talk about his anti-war sentiments or about social injustice. Two of his most popular tracks are Alice's Restaurant Massacree, Massachusetts, and City of New Orleans. He has also starred in films such as Alice's Restaurant.

 14 Harry Chapin

Harry Chapin
4
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: December 7, 1942
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States
Died: July 16, 1981
Grammy-winning folk rock and pop rock singer Harry Chapin was one of the highest-paid artists of the 1970s, known for tracks such as Cat's in the Cradle. An avid philanthropist, he was part of the Presidential Commission on World Hunger. He also won a posthumous Congressional Gold Medal

 15 Deborah Ryan

Deborah Ryan
10
Famous As: Actress, Singer
Birthdate: May 13, 1993
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Huntsville, Alabama

Deborah Ryan is an American singer and actress who started her career as a child artist before going on to establish herself as a successful adult actress in the TV and film industry. A multi-talented personality, Ryan can also play the guitar, keyboard, and piano. Also a well-known philanthropist, Ryan has been working on various causes, such as ocean conservation.

 16 Joanna Newsom

Joanna Newsom
8
Famous As: Multi-instrumentalist, Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: January 18, 1982
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Nevada City, California, United States

Joanna Newsom is an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and actress. Noted for her unique musical style, Newsom's early work was influenced by polyrhythms. She is one of the most important members of the modern freak folk and psychedelic folk movement. Newsom is also noted for her songwriting, which incorporates elements of avant-garde modernism and Appalachian music.

 17 Emmylou Harris

Emmylou Harris
4
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: April 2, 1947
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Birmingham, Alabama, United States

Emmylou Harris is an American musician, singer, and songwriter. Apart from being a bandleader, a solo artist, and an interpreter of other artists' works, Harris is also an activist; since 1999, she has been conducting Concerts for a Landmine Free World, an annual benefit tour. She is also an ardent supporter of animal rights organizations, such as PETA.

 18 Mary Travers

Mary Travers
3
Famous As: Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: November 9, 1936
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Died: September 16, 2009

Mary Travers was an American singer and songwriter. She was part of Peter, Paul and Mary, one of the most successful and popular folk music groups of the 1960s. Apart from working with the music group, Travers released five solo albums. In 1999, she was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame as part of the group.

 19 Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger
4
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: May 3, 1919
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Manhattan, New York City, United States
Died: January 27, 2014

Pete Seeger was an American social activist and folk singer. Seeger believed that the power of music could bring about a social change, an ideology that reflected on his works. Through his music, Seeger expressed his support towards counterculture, civil rights, environmental rights, international disarmament, and workers rights.

 20 Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens
4
Famous As: Singer-songwriter most famous for his Illinois album, which includes the hit Chicago
Birthdate: July 1, 1975
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan, United States

 21 Pernell Roberts

Pernell Roberts
4
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: May 18, 1928
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Waycross, Georgia
Died: January 24, 2010
Pernell Roberts is best known as Adam Cartwright from the Western series Bonanza and Dr. John McIntyre from Trapper John, MD. He was also a prominent social activist and had participated in protests such as the Selma to Montgomery marches. He also narrated documentaries and experimented as a singer.

 22 Avi Kaplan

Avi Kaplan
4
Famous As: Singer-Songwriter
Birthdate: April 17, 1989
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Visalia, California
Avi Kaplan gained fame as part of the three-time Grammy-winning a cappella group Pentatonix, as their designated vocal bass. He later went solo with the EP Sage and Stone under the name "Avriel & the Sequoias." In 2019, he released the track Change on the Rise, as "Avi Kaplan."

 23 Stephen Stills

Stephen Stills
4
Famous As: Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: January 3, 1945
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Dallas, Texas, United States

 24 Don McLean

Don McLean
4
Famous As: Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: October 2, 1945
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New Rochelle, New York, United States

 25 Burl Ives

Burl Ives
4
Famous As: American singer
Birthdate: June 14, 1909
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Hunt City Township, Illinois, United States
Died: April 14, 1995

 26 Tyler Childers

Tyler Childers
4
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: June 21, 1991
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Lawrence County, Kentucky, United States

 27 Phil Ochs

Phil Ochs
3
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: December 19, 1940
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: El Paso, Texas, USA
Died: April 9, 1976

 28 Garrett Morris

Garrett Morris
4
Famous As: Comedian
Birthdate: February 1, 1937
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
Garrett Morris is best known as part of Saturday Night Live, where he played characters such as Chico Escuela and the News for the Hard of Hearing translator. He also played Uncle Junior on The Jamie Foxx Show and Earl Washington in 2 Broke Girls.

 29 Deborah Falconer

Deborah Falconer
8
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: August 13, 1965
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Sacramento, California, United States
Deborah Falconer has appeared in quite a few films, such as the comedy Pyrates and the biographical film The Doors. She also released music albums such as Untangle and Brave Like Me. She was previously married to actor Robert Downey Jr. and also had a son with him.

 30 Lead Belly

Lead Belly
4
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: January 20, 1888
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Mooringsport, Louisiana, United States
Died: December 6, 1949

 31 Suzanne Vega

Suzanne Vega
5
Famous As: Singer-songwriter, Musician
Birthdate: July 11, 1959
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Santa Monica, California, United States

 32 Sierra Deaton

Sierra Deaton
8
Famous As: Pop Singer
Birthdate: February 11, 1991
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

 33 Colbie Caillat

Colbie Caillat
7
Famous As: Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: May 28, 1985
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Malibu, California, United States

 34 Sixto Rodriguez

Sixto Rodriguez
5
Famous As: Detroit-based folk musician who released little-heard but influential folk music in the 1970's.
Birthdate: July 10, 1942
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan, United States

 35 Janis Ian

Janis Ian
3
Famous As: Singer, Songwriter, Musician & Author
Birthdate: April 7, 1951
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Farmingdale, New Jersey, United States

 36 Sharon Van Etten

Sharon Van Etten
5
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: February 26, 1981
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Belleville, New Jersey, USA

 37 Judy Collins

Judy Collins
9
Famous As: Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: May 1, 1939
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Seattle, Washington, United States

 38 Kim Carnes

Kim Carnes
11
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: July 20, 1945
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Pasadena, California, USA

 39 Roger McGuinn

Roger McGuinn
5
Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: July 13, 1942
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, USA

 40 Devendra Banhart

Devendra Banhart
3
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: May 30, 1981
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Houston, Texas, USA

 41 Loudon Wainwright III

Loudon Wainwright III
3
Famous As: Singer, Actor, Singer-songwriter, Film actor, Television actor, Guitarist
Birthdate: September 5, 1946
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States

 42 Tom T. Hall

Tom T. Hall
3
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: May 25, 1936
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Olive Hill, Kentucky, USA

 43 Maddie Poppe

Maddie Poppe
5
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: December 5, 1997
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Clarksville, Iowa, United States

 44 Ray LaMontagne

Ray LaMontagne
6
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: June 18, 1973
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Nashua, New Hampshire, USA

 45 Jerry Jeff Walker

Jerry Jeff Walker
3
Famous As: Singer-Songwriter
Birthdate: March 16, 1942
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Oneonta, New York, United States

 46 Guy Clark

Guy Clark
3
Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: November 6, 1941
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Monahans, Texas, U.S.
Died: May 17, 2016

 47 Paul Stookey

Paul Stookey
4
Famous As: Musician, Singer, Singer-songwriter, Guitarist
Birthdate: December 30, 1937
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Greenwich Village

 48 Chris Burke

Chris Burke
4
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: August 26, 1965
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Point Lookout, New York, United States

 49 Ashe

Ashe
5
Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: April 24, 1993
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: San Jose, California, United States

 50 Tom Paxton

Tom Paxton
4
Famous As: Singer-songwriter, Singer, Musician, Guitarist, Writer
Birthdate: October 31, 1937
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Chicago