When a string of performers influenced by blues, folk music, and country music rose to prominence and popularity in the 1960s and early 1970s, the term “singer/songwriter” began to gain traction in the public consciousness for the first time in North America. Bob Dylan, Neil Young, John Lennon, Van Morrison, Willie Nelson, Paul Simon, Leonard Cohen, and Joni Mitchell were some of the songwriters and singers who were involved in this group.
Artists who had previously been best known for their songwriting, such as Carole King, Townes Van Zandt, and Neil Diamond, started recording music under their own names as performers.
These artists often penned songs from a very personal (and frequently first-person), introspective point of view, which stands in contrast to the narrative approach that was prevalent in the majority of country and folk music that came before them. Many times, and often in a mocking manner, the terms “confessional” and “tender” were employed to describe the singing and songwriting style of singer-songwriters.
During the era of rock bands, band members did not qualify as singer-songwriters because they did not perform as solo acts. However, several of them were also songwriters who collaborated with other members of the band to write music. Examples include Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Brian Wilson, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir, and Elton John (with Bernie Taupin).
Other examples include Don Henley, Glen Frey, Country Joe McDonald, and Barry Many others, including Eric Clapton, achieved success in their latter years as singer-songwriters, like Clapton did.
By the middle of the 1960s, Bob Dylan had taken the initiative in fusing folk music and rock music. In July 1965, he released “Like a Rolling Stone,” which featured a revolutionary rock sound and was steeped in sleazy urban imagery. This was followed by an electric performance at the Newport Folk Festival later that month. An entire generation was initiated into the world of the singer-songwriter thanks to Dylan.
Dylan’s blending of folk and rock music, often writing from an urban point of view and punctuating his poetry with rock rhythms and electric force, freed up new singer-songwriters to employ components of both traditions to convey their stories. He did this by melding folk music with rock music. In the middle to later part of the 1960s, there was a proliferation of bands and singer-songwriters in the underground art and music scene in New York.
In the late 1960s, a new wave of female singer-songwriters broke out from the limits of pop music. These artists used the urban landscape as their canvas for songs, writing in the introspective style popularized by poets such as Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath.
By the middle of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s, the first wave of singer-songwriters had largely been absorbed into a more general pop or soft rock format. However, new artists continuing in the singer-songwriter tradition continued to emerge, such as Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Jackson Browne, Chris Isaak, Victoria Williams, John Mellencamp, and Warren Zevon. – Only 70s Radio
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