Postwar Years

  February 13, 2022   Read time 2 min
Postwar Years
The postwar years in both the United Kingdom and the United States were both a continuation of prewar musical developments, and a slight prelude to the folk music revival that accelerated through the next decade.

There was somewhat of an idealism following the victory over fascism that a new world was to emerge, where folk music could play a vital role. In Britain, “Regions of the country were enjoying folk song broadcasting of one form or another and, through embracing radio technology, folk music made several inroads in regions of the nation and national consciousness,” according to Michael Brocken. He emphasizes the role of traditional singers, such as Harry Cox. Record companies and the BBC supplied country-dance music to the country, where teachers were encouraged to use traditional music in their classrooms. “The regularity with which British folk music appeared on the radio was indicative of the sense of loyalty to British culture and tradition felt at the BBC and among an educated middle-class audience.”

The EFDSS, with rising membership, sponsored its first commercial recordings of traditional performers, and expanded its musical classes, focusing on country dancing. Maud Karpeles, attempting to maintain her influential role in the organization and promote international cooperation, in 1947 convened a conference in London to form the International Folk Music Council.

Left-wing influence on folk music development in Britain was somewhat visible following the war, but not the presence it would take in the United States. A. L. Lloyd, following publication of The Singing Englishman, had slight public acknowledgment, although he did supply the songs for the BBC shows Johnny Miner: A Ballad Opera for Coal (1947) and White Spirituals (1949). Across the ocean, however, folk music and folk dancing had a wide following. In late December 1945 a gathering in Greenwich Village in New York City, called by Pete Seeger, launched People’s Songs.
Joined by Alan Lomax, Lee Hays, composer Earl Robinson, Woody Guthrie, and numerous others, the organization sought “to make and send songs of labor and the American people through the land.” A published bulletin would print songs, new and old, as well as articles connecting music and activist politics throughout the country. Concerts, now named “hootenannies” (a musical event with various performers), records, publications such as a People’s Songs Wordbook and People’s Song Book, spread their musical messages, supporting world peace, labor unions, civil rights, and socialism.
The organization tried to thrive in the face of a mounting cold war and anticommunist political atmosphere, as the United States and its allies feared the expansion of communism coming from Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Indeed, the fear increased after the Communist Party came into power in China in 1949. People’s Songs’ successes were short-lived, and it collapsed in early 1949, but it left a lasting legacy.

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