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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton June 17, 2010

Resistance and relief: The wit and woes of early twentieth century folk and country music

  • Iain Ellis
From the journal HUMOR


Folk and country music were rural-based music styles that developed during the pre-rock decades of the early twentieth century. Largely performed by working-class practitioners for working-class audiences, these genres captured the hardships of poor constituencies through markedly different means of humorous expression. Whereas folk employed an often strident satire in resisting perceived oppressors, country looked inwards, using self-deprecating and personalized humor as a shield and relief against outside forces. Narrative tall-tales and regional vernacular were ubiquitous features of folk and country humor, and both crafted struggling characters to serve as illustrative metaphors for broader class concerns. In surveying these music forms in their infancy—as well as their key players—we are connected to the roots of American humor, as well as subsequent developments in rock & roll rebellion.

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Published Online: 2010-06-17
Published in Print: 2010-May

© 2010 Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, Berlin/New York

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