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.

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 1 Tracy Chapman

Tracy Chapman
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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.

 2 Paul Simon

Paul Simon
2
Famous As: Musician
Birthdate: October 13, 1941
Sun Sign: Libra
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.

 3 Linda Ronstadt

Linda Ronstadt
4
Famous As: Singer, Songwriter, Musician
Birthdate: July 15, 1946
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Tucson, Arizona, U.S.

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.

 4 Roseanne Cash

Roseanne Cash
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Famous As: Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: May 24, 1955
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Memphis, Tennessee, United States

 5 Joanna Newsom

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

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.

 6 Mary Travers

Mary Travers
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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.

 7 Judy Collins

Judy Collins
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Famous As: Singer, Street artist, Singer-songwriter, Composer, Guitarist, Pianist
Birthdate: May 1, 1939
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Seattle
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 8 Janis Ian

Janis Ian
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Famous As: Singer, Songwriter, Musician & Author
Birthdate: April 7, 1951
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Bronx

 9 Will Oldham

Will Oldham
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Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: December 24, 1970
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Louisville, Kentucky, USA

 10 Nanci Griffith

Nanci Griffith
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Famous As: Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: July 6, 1953
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Seguin, Texas, U.S.

 11 Judee Sill

Judee Sill
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Famous As: Singer-songwriter, Singer, Composer, Pianist
Birthdate: October 7, 1944
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Oakland
Died: November 23, 1979

 12 Maria Muldaur

Maria Muldaur
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Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: September 12, 1943
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Greenwich Village, New York City New York, U.S.

 13 Jill Gibson

Jill Gibson
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Famous As: Painter, Photographer, Singer, Songwriter
Birthdate: June 18, 1942
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Los Angeles

 14 Anais Mitchell

Anais Mitchell
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Birthdate: March 26, 1981
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Vermont

 15 Tom Paxton

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

 16 Peggy Seeger

Peggy Seeger
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Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: June 17, 1935
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: New York City

 17 Mimi Fariña

Mimi Fariña
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Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: April 30, 1945
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Palo Alto, California, United States
Died: July 18, 2001

 18 Kate Wolf

Kate Wolf
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Famous As: Composer, Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: January 27, 1942
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: San Francisco
Died: December 10, 1986

 19 Christina Perri

Christina Perri
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Famous As: Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: August 19, 1986
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Philadelphia

Christina Perri is an American singer-songwriter whose debut album Lovestrong was certified platinum. She is also known for recording the popular love theme, A Thousand Years, for the movie, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2. Apart from releasing studio albums and extended plays, Christina Perri also headlines concert tours.

 20 Deborah Ryan

Deborah Ryan
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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.

 21 Aimee Mann

Aimee Mann
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Famous As: Alternative Artist
Birthdate: September 8, 1960
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Richmond

Aimee Mann is an American singer and songwriter whose song Save Me, which she recorded for the soundtrack of the film Magnolia, earned her a Grammy Award and Academy Award nomination. Apart from being a singer and songwriter, Aimee Mann has also made several appearances on film and television. She also appears on the albums of other artists.

 22 Jewel

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

 23 Kris Kristofferson

Kris Kristofferson
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Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: June 22, 1936
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Brownsville, Texas, United States

Kris Kristofferson is a popular singer-songwriter and actor. Over the years, Kris has played a major role in the success of many famous singers, having contributed to their musical albums as a songwriter. For his achievements in the field of music, Kris Kristofferson was made a Country Music Hall of Fame inductee in 2004.

 24 Sierra Deaton

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

 25 Colbie Caillat

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

 26 Exene Cervenka

Exene Cervenka
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Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: February 1, 1956
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Exene Cervenka soared to fame as a singer of the punk rock band X. She has also held exhibitions for her mixed media art, published books, and released a spoken word album. She has also expressed her views as a conspiracy theorist named Christine Notmyrealname, on social media.

 27 Sasha Spielberg

Sasha Spielberg
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: May 14, 1990
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, USA

 28 John Prine

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

 29 Harry Belafonte

Harry Belafonte
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Famous As: Singer, Actor, Stage actor
Birthdate: March 1, 1927
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Harlem

 30 Deborah Falconer

Deborah Falconer
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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.

 31 Woody Guthrie

Woody Guthrie
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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.”

 32 Sharon Van Etten

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

 33 Townes Van Zandt

Townes Van Zandt
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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.

 34 Pink

Pink
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Famous As: Singer-songwriter
Birthdate: September 8, 1979
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: oylestown, Pennsylvania, United States

Pink is an American singer-songwriter known for her acrobatic stage presence and raspy voice. Having sold more than 90 million records worldwide, Pink is one of the best-selling musicians in the world. A recipient of several prestigious awards, Pink was named in VH1's 100 Greatest Women in Music list. Her work has inspired many other artists like Taylor Swift.

 35 Pernell Roberts

Pernell Roberts
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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.

 36 Maddie Poppe

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

 37 Roger McGuinn

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

 38 Stephen Stills

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

 39 Avi Kaplan

Avi Kaplan
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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."

 40 Tyler Childers

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

 41 Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger
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Famous As: American singer
Birthdate: May 3, 1919
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Manhattan
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.

 42 Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash
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Famous As: Country Singer-Songwriter
Birthdate: February 26, 1932
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Kingsland, Arkansas, United States
Died: September 12, 2003

Johnny Cash, the American singer, songwriter and actor, was known for sorrow, moral suffering and redemption themes in his music. His genre was country, rock and roll, blues, folk and gospel sounds and he is one of the best-selling artists of all time. Cash had issues with drinking and drug abuse. Later he was diagnosed with a neurodegenerative disease.

 43 Wilmer Valderrama

Wilmer Valderrama
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: January 30, 1980
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Miami, Florida
Wilmer Valderrama is best known for his Teen Choice Award-winning performance as Fez in That '70s Show. He has played prominent roles in NCIS, Grey's Anatomy, and The Ranch. He has also hosted the MTV series Yo Momma, released a single, and appeared in numerous music videos.

 44 Arlo Guthrie

Arlo Guthrie
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Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: July 10, 1947
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York
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.

 45 Harry Chapin

Harry Chapin
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Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: December 7, 1942
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York City
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

 46 Justin Vernon

Justin Vernon
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Famous As: Singer
Birthdate: April 30, 1981
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Eau Claire, Wisconsin, United States

 47 Lead Belly

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

 48 Ashe

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

 49 Garrett Morris

Garrett Morris
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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.

 50 Kim Carnes

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