As the earliest form of traditional music could not be recorded, less is known about it, but some ancient songs were passed through generations, and suggest they took the form of vocal melody and meaningful lyrics. However, as the songs are passed on, so too do they change, and so a modern version of an old classic could be very different to the original.
Whilst it is likely versions of this music was being sung in specific regions throughout the world, and many countries still have their own dance-led variations, it is in England and America where the genre took on the sound as it is widely recognised today. In the former, Cecil Sharp founded the English Folk Dance Society and was an important figure in its early recordings.
Further revivals deeply respected folk's traditions, whilst also developing the old songs and creating new ones, based on the vocal forefront, social message, and instruments such as acoustic guitar, accordion and fiddle. Topic Records were the main label producing this music, and important musicians included Bert Jansch and Martin Carthy.
English folk developed further from the sixties and in the seventies into other genres, such as folk rock, a more electric version played by bands such as Fairport Convention. Similarly in Ireland, a country with a deep affection for its own traditional songs, acts like The Pogues added a punk edge to the folk sound in the eighties. Over in America, a similar development was happening, most notably when Bob Dylan progressed his Woodie Guthrie inspired folk songs from acoustic guitar and harmonica to a more electric style which split his audience.
Today, folk music lives on strongly in its traditions whilst occasionally crossing over into popular culture. Bands like Mumford and Sons obtain chart success with folk inspiration, and purists flock to folk clubs and festivals. Also, meaningful folk songs are often played at funerals, and dances such as ceilidhs are regularly put on for weddings.