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Curious Minds // The Folk Music Revival
Registration closes July 16
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Thursday, Apr 30, 2020 11:00 AM
Streaming ends July 18 at midnight
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A dynamic history of the folk revival of the 1950s and 60s.
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Curious Minds favourite Dr. Mike Daley returns with this dynamic, six-part history of the urban folk revival of the 1950s and 60s. Beginning with the commercial breakthrough of Pete Seeger and The Weavers in 1950, he will trace the genre’s early roots in 19th and early 20th century folk song, the field recordings of Alan Lomax, and the protest songs of the 1930s, before moving on to assess the remarkable songs and careers of 60s folk icons like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Ian and Sylvia, Peter, Paul and Mary, and more. As we examine the gradual fusion of folk and rock music, we'll explore the rich musical legacy of these mid-century singer-songwriters and the contemporary folk music movements that are keeping their spirit alive.

Led by Dr. Mike Daley (Leonard Cohen: Words and Music; The Toronto Sound; The Beatles and their World), a music historian and professional musician who has taught at Guelph, McMaster, Waterloo and York Universities.

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The six weekly lectures in this series will start being available at the dates and times noted below. Once they are online, you can access each lecture at your leisure by clicking on links in your confirmation email, or by visiting your My Streams page. Once you start streaming the lecture, it will be available for 48 hours.

Each video lecture will be accompanied by a live Q&A, available to watch here on the dates noted below. To submit a question to the lecturer, email curiousminds@hotdocs.ca in advance of the scheduled Q&A.

Week 1: The Song Hunters
We begin our story with broadside ballads, the first written-down folk songs, before moving on to the seminal recordings of John and Alan Lomax, who recorded pioneering figures like Huddie Ledbetter, a.k.a. Lead Belly, and Woody Guthrie. Shifting our attention north of the border, we’ll survey the work of their Canadian counterparts Helen Creighton and Edith Fowke, who recorded and published the folk songs of rural Ontario and the East Coast.

Lecture Released: Monday, May 18 - 12:00 PM
Live Q&A: Friday, May 22 – 10:00 AM

Week 2: Commercial Old-time Music and the 'Red Decade'
The Great Migration out of the American South, along with changes in the phonograph industry, awakened the market for so-called 'hillbilly' records in the 1920s. While music scouts discovered country music pioneers like Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family, the labour movement of the 1930s embraced the use of folk music as a tool of persuasion and morale building, rallying the troops at strikes and protests with the stirring tunes contained in the Industrial Workers of the World’s Little Red Songbook. 

Lecture Released: Monday, May 25 – 12:00 PM
Live Q&A: Friday, May 29 – 10:00 AM

Week 3: The Early Urban Folk Revival
With a musical DNA forged by leftist politics, Peter Seeger founded a commercially successful folk group, the Weavers, that scored pop hits and helped to inspire the urban folk revival of the 1950s and 60s. With Seeger’s encouragement, The Travellers, formed near Brampton, Ontario, brought folk music to the Canadian airwaves. The cross-border renaissance popularized the hootenanny, an informal sharing of songs that would form the basis of the coffeehouse movement, and yielded the fertile-and hugely influential-Yorkville folk scene of the period.

Lecture Released: Monday, June 1 – 12:00 PM
Live Q&A: Friday, June 5 – 10:00 AM

Week 4 The Folk Boom
As the Weavers and their imitators scored pop hits, the urban folk revival became big business, and the powerful manager Albert Grossman made stars out of clients like Peter, Paul and Mary, Bob Dylan, and Ian and Sylvia. In Canada, a folk music infrastructure emerged alongside the rise of artists like Oscar Brand, Malka and Joso and Gordon Lightfoot. Meanwhile Moses Asch's Folkways Records was presenting a wide variety of traditional styles on long-playing albums, including Harry Smith's seminal Anthology of American Folk Music.

Lecture Released: Monday, June 8 – 12:00 PM
Live Q&A: Friday, June 12 – 10:00 AM

Week 5: Folk-Rock and the Singer-Songwriters
When Bob Dylan, the prince of protest, changed his songwriting style in 1964 away from topical songs, a schism emerged in the folk scene. Dylan's 1965 appearance at the Newport Folk Festival playing an electric guitar marked the end of the postwar revival, and the arrival of folk-rock, a brief but important fad that set the stage for the careers of eminent singer-songwriters like Gordon Lightfoot, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen and more.

Lecture Released: Monday, June 15 – 12:00 PM
Live Q&A: Friday, June 19 – 10:00 AM

Week 6: Contemporary Folk Music
The sounds and styles of folk music continue to resonate today throughout popular culture-in recent films like A Mighty Wind and Inside Llewyn Davis, and in the skillful hands of contemporary folk revivalists like Rhiannon Giddens, Lula Wiles and Molly Tuttle. To conclude, Mike will survey the Canadian folk music infrastructure of 2020, assessing the festivals, venues, record labels and house concert circuit that will determine the genre’s future in the years and decades to come.

Lecture Released: Monday, June 22 – 12:00 PM
Live Q&A: Friday, June 26 – 10:00 AM

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