Researcher ORCID Identifier


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Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

John Pitney

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Since the Civil War, American folk and country music have become deeply political cultural mediums. This thesis posits that the history of the folk-country family can be broken down into three distinct “eras.” During the first era, the post-Civil War South gave rise to a new form of “Dixie,” or “hillbilly” folk music derived from traditional European folk ballads. In the second era, the Dust Bowl migrants of Southern California pioneered the “Okie” sound, which built upon Dixie/hillbilly music. And in the third era, the political and cultural dissidents of the 1960s produced a new type of folk music in Greenwich Village, New York. Although radically different in some respects, these three folk/country subgenres were united in their sense of politicization. Given the clear connection between folk and country music and American politics, this thesis focuses upon two questions. First, what political events, dynamics, and identities account for the thematic shifts in folk and country music that have occurred since the mid-nineteenth century? And second, what is the value of musical analysis within the discipline of political science? This thesis conducts lyrical analyses of folk and country music from each of its three eras and places the music against its historical backdrop using a mixture of primary and secondary sources. In doing so, this thesis points to a variety of political factors that produced the three aforementioned shifts in the folk-country musical family. Further, it highlights the relatively unexplored ability of music to reflect and predict impending regional political shifts.