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by Justin Farrar

May 29, 2014

The Birth of the Singer-Songwriter

by Justin Farrar  |  May 29, 2014

With current stars Passenger, Ray LaMontagne, Phillip Phillips and Ed Sheeran once again making singer-songwriters a persistent presence on the pop charts, the time is apt to pay tribute to the movement's clutch of icons. Nowadays, with history's veil turning the past fuzzy and distant, it's all too easy to not fully appreciate the profound impact the original singer-songwriters exerted on the evolution of pop.

The movement started in the mid-'60s, when young, guitar-strumming troubadours Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Bert Jansch, Gordon Lightfoot and Tim Hardin -- all of whom cut their teeth as folk revivalists -- began penning original compositions rooted in personal experience and rumination. Because pop at the time was so deeply invested in the Tin Pan Alley approach to music production (i.e. singers looking to professional songwriters for material), the idea of a solo artist recording and performing his or her own tunes was truly novel. By the early '70s, said pioneers helped spawn a new and far larger crop of singer-songwriters. Anchored by the likes of James Taylor, Carole King, Jackson Browne, Laura Nyro, Billy Joel and several others, this new crop achieved a scale of commercial success unimaginable to many of their forbears. They became bona fide pop stars. From "Fire and Rain" and "I Feel the Earth Move" to "Piano Man" and "Doctor My Eyes," our playlist spotlights many of the classic tunes that define the birth of the singer-songwriter movement.

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