Folk City: New York and the American Folk Music Revival


Product Details

Oxford University Press, USA
Publish Date
7.09 X 10.22 X 0.93 inches | 2.38 pounds

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About the Author

Stephen Petrus is an Andrew W. Mellon Research Fellow at the New-York Historical Society, where he is working on his second book, a political and cultural history of Greenwich Village in the 1950s and 60s. At the Museum of the City of New York, he curated the exhibition Folk City, on view until January 10th, 2016, and was co-author of the show's accompanying book, with historian Ronald D. Cohen. Petrus has published essays on twentieth-century U.S. urban and cultural history. He received his Ph.D. in history from the City University Graduate Center and taught at Lehman College in the Bronx. He currently lives in Brooklyn. Ronald D. Cohen is Emeritus Professor of History at Indiana University Northwest in Gary, Indiana. He is the author of numerous books on the history of folk music including The Pete Seeger Reader (OUP, 2014) and was the co-producer/writer of the 10-CD boxed set Songs for Political Action: Folk Music, Topical Songs and the American Left, 1926-1954 (1996).


"[The book] has much to offer music researchers and will serve as a key source in helping its readers understand the spaces, ideologies, and connections of the influential midcentury New York folk scene. Thus, whether for general readers, historians, musicologists, or anyone else engaging substantially with the history of American folk revivalism, this book is a welcome addition." -- Brian Jones, Society for American Music Bulletin

"Folk City is a magical token back to a clattering, incandescent New York, where Popular Front hootenannies gave way to the fretted hip of Gerde's, the Gaslight, and the Folklore Center. Stephen Petrus and Ronald Cohen have written the best history yet of the city's influential folk music culture, packed with astonishing photos that finally see the light of day." --Sean Wilentz, author of Bob Dylan in America

"Yes, dear readers, there was a time not so long ago when urban troubadours sang of flowers more powerful than guns; a time when ideals put to song helped transform a culture. With compelling artistry, Stephen Petrus and Ronald Cohen capture the history behind that special moment and how New York's diverse creative class made it happen." --Thomas Kessner, Distinguished Professor of History, City University of New York Graduate School

"Folk City is beautifully written and illustrated, a mesmerizing history of one of the great moments in New York cultural history. The prose fairly sings off the page, and the photos and old poster and song sheets are fascinating. This will make you wish you were there." --Kevin Baker, author of The Big Crowd

"This handsome book, which includes rarely seen photographs, reminiscences of participants and a lively narrative . . . The authors do a fine job of presenting the various facets of the folk revival, including its impact on the city and its role in changing the larger culture." --The New York Times

"Fourteen years ago, author David Hajdu crafted a superb, perhaps definitive, portrait of Greenwich Village at the height of the folk-music revival . . . yet in [FOLK CITY'S] winningly plain-spoken way, provides a far more comprehensive appreciation of one of the most colourful chapters in American music." -- Maclean's

"[A] fresh, colorful, thoroughly illustrated portrait of the scene, from its origins to today . . . [FOLK CITY] is particularly compelling in chronicling, from original documents and firsthand testimony, how the critical mass for the folk revival congregated in the city."--Wall Street Journal

"Petrus (curatorial fellow, Museum of the City of New York) and Cohen (emer., history, Indiana Univ. Northwest) have produced a wonderful overview of the influential folk music scene that revolved around New York City's Greenwich Village and Washington Square during the 1950s and 1960s."--Choice

"Reading Folk City is almost like watching a film documentary (of which there have been a few) of that time. But in its balanced yet passionate story it helps one recreate memories, re-think thoughts, laugh at some of the foolishness, and weep for some of the tragedies...[it] will bring you as close as you can get to a very wonderful time that is still re-creating itself in the guitar strummers of today."--The Bridge

"Straightforward and engaging, breezily fresh and poignant, rich in reminiscences and primary as well as secondary sources, Folk City: New York and the American Folk Music Revival is the inviting companion publication to the Museum of the City of New York's similarly titled exhibit."--Sing Out!

"Folk City began life as a companion essay to a recent exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York. It comes close to being a complete social history of a vital, but ultimately tragic moment."--The Times Literary Supplement

"Folk a striking impressive job of research readably and sometimes eloquently presented."--Journal of Folklore Research

"No pair was better placed to mount the exhibition or to write the accompanying, beautiful book..."--Journal of Popular Music Studies

"Petrus and Cohen's Folk City offers a fascinating and highly readable account of the American folk music revival, which they effectively argue came about as an extension of New York City's unique cultural scenery."--The Gotham Center for New York City History

"[An] impressive volume, impeccably presented and lucidly written..."--Popular Music

"Petrus and Cohen know the story that they want to tell, and they tell it well. They are at their best when tracing the connections between underground performance venues, music magazine publishers, and moments of social activism, and they lead their audience fluently through the networks of music and politics that made up the New York folk music scene. Readers who are interested in New York City will find new layers to the city's cultural life to appreciate, and readers who are folk music lovers will discover the extent of that music's impact on American society."--Notes

"Folk City provides several valuable scholarly contributions. For one, it is strong in detail and offers a definitive account of the evolution of folk music during the middle part of the twentieth century. The authors also effectively highlight the reasons why New York City helped precipitate a folk music revival. As such, the book is not simply a descriptive narrative; rather, it connects factual detail to wider themes and ideas. Petrus and Cohen also make several interesting connections to urban history that situate their arguments within a wider historical framework...Folk City is an excellent book, important not only as a history of folk music but as a significant contribution to urban history as well." --Popular Music and Society