The growth of coffeehouse folk music in New York City during the 50s and 60s was a significant moment in the evolution of American popular music. In this era, a new generation of musicians and artists emerged, who were inspired by traditional folk music and the Beat Generation, and who sought to create a new sound that reflected the social and political issues of the time. This movement, which was centered in the coffeehouses of Greenwich Village, played a pivotal role in the development of folk rock and the eventual move of the genre to California.
The coffeehouse atmosphere was intimate and relaxed, and the music was often performed acoustically, with singers accompanied by only a guitar or piano. This approach, which was in stark contrast to the polished, commercial sound of popular music at the time, helped to establish a new standard for folk music, and it provided a platform for artists to showcase their talent and connect with audiences.
New York coffeehouses have played a significant role in nurturing the talents of many notable singers over the years. Bob Dylan was a notable example. He began his career as a singer-songwriter in the coffeehouses of Greenwich Village in the early 1960s. He performed at popular coffeehouses such as Cafe Wha? and Gerde’s Folk City, where he developed his unique folk and protest music style.
Joan Baez too was also a regular performer at the coffeehouses in Greenwich Village during the 1960s. She performed at venues such as The Gaslight Cafe and Cafe Wha?, where she gained a reputation as a talented folk singer.
And the duo of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel began their musical careers in the coffeehouses of New York City. They performed at venues such as The Gaslight Cafe and Cafe Wha?, where they developed their signature harmonies and folk rock sound.
The growth of coffeehouse folk music in New York City was soon followed by a move to California, where the genre continued to evolve and gain popularity. California was home to a thriving counter-cultural movement, and musicians and artists were drawn to the state by its sunny climate, beautiful landscapes, and liberal social and political environment. In this new setting, coffeehouse folk music flourished, as musicians explored new sounds and styles and collaborated with one another to create something new and exciting.
Song About the Move
The Mamas & the Papas, a popular folk-rock group from the 1960s, had a hit song that references their move to Los Angeles. The song is called “California Dreamin'” and was released in 1965. The lyrics describe the feelings of homesickness and longing for warmer weather that the band members experienced after they moved to Los Angeles from the East Coast. The first verse starts with the lines, “All the leaves are brown and the sky is grey / I’ve been for a walk on a winter’s day / I’d be safe and warm if I was in L.A.”
The song became a huge hit and is now considered a classic of the era. The lyrics of “California Dreamin'” capture the sense of hope and excitement that many people felt when they moved to Los Angeles during the 1960s, seeking a new way of life and the promise of the California dream.
The emergence of the folk rock movement, a fusion of folk and rock music, created anew sound that was epitomized by artists like The Byrds and The Mamas & The Papas, who blended the acoustic, introspective qualities of folk music with the electrifying energy of rock and roll. This new sound was a hit with audiences, and it helped to popularize folk rock and establish it as a distinct genre.
The growth of coffeehouse folk music in New York City and its later move to California played a pivotal role in the evolution of American popular music. This movement helped to establish a new standard for folk music and paved the way for the emergence of new genres like folk rock. The coffeehouses of Greenwich Village and the vibrant counter-cultural movement of California provided a platform for musicians and artists to connect with one another, share their ideas, and create something new and exciting. Today, the legacy of coffeehouse folk music continues to inspire and influence musicians and artists around the world.