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The Most Beautiful Lyrics From 1960s Folk Songs

The 1960s saw a burgeoning international music scene that looked forward and backward at once. Innovations in electrical amplification and sound manipulation, a blossoming counterculture movement, and rampant political, cultural, and social change ushered in the advent of rock ’n’ roll, rhythm and blues, and Latin-inspired genres.

Meanwhile, the acoustic (and acoustic-adjacent) singer-songwriter circuit that had simmered across the U.S. for two decades finally began to boil over with the peak of the folk revival movement.

Both camps could be considered an act of defiance against contemporary pop music, though each utilized a different approach in its rebellion. Rock and soul, fueled by anti-war protests and the civil rights movement, served as a modern response to the older generation’s gospel, blues, and country. These new genres unapologetically forged ahead, splintering into innumerable subgenres that have continued to shape the musical universe to this day.

Folk revivalists, on the other hand, sought to diverge from the norm by returning to the roots of the norm: the Appalachian folk tradition, the British and European ballad canon, and the rousing, rugged spirit of late 19th-century America.

It’s within these paradoxical folds of progress and tradition, change and stability, and artistic evolution and heritage that some of the most poignant folk songs of all time were written. These songs combined a contemporary mindset with old-fashioned musical sensibility, fusing the old with the new to create something entirely unique to that decade.

Here, we’ve gathered a small selection of some of the most beautiful lyrics to emerge from the 1960s folk era.

Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command / Your old road is rapidly agin’ / Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand / For the times, they are a-changin’.
“The Times They Are A-Changin,” Bob Dylan, 1964

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Tears and fears and feeling proud / To say “I love you” right out loud / Dreams and schemes and circus crowds / I’ve looked at life that way.
“Both Sides Now,” Joni Mitchell, 1969

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I wish I was / Homeward bound / Home, where my thought’s escaping / Home, where my music’s playing / Home, where my love lies waiting / Silently for me.
“Homeward Bound,” Simon & Garfunkel, 1966

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Living is a gamble, baby / Loving’s much the same / Wherever I have played / Whenever I’ve rolled them dice / Wherever I have played / The blues have run the game.
“Blues Run the Game,” Jackson C. Frank, 1965

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A time to gain, a time to lose / A time to rend, a time to sew / A time for love, a time for hate / A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late.
“Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season),” The Byrds, 1965

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Like a worm on a hook / Like a knight from some old-fashioned book / I have saved all my ribbons for thee.
“Bird on the Wire,” Leonard Cohen, 1969

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One of these days I’m gonna stop my listening / Gonna raise my head up high / One of these days I’m gonna raise my glistening wings and fly.
“Society’s Child,” Janis Ian, 1966

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I still might run in silence, tears of joy might stain my face / And the summer sun might burn me till I’m blind / But not to where I cannot see you walkin’ on the back roads / By the rivers flowing gentle on my mind.
“Gentle on My Mind,” John Hartford, 1967

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All across the nation, such a strange vibration / People in motion / There’s a whole generation with a new explanation / People in motion, people in motion / For those who come to San Francisco / Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.
“San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair),” Scott McKenzie, 1967

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We sang in the sunshine / You know we laughed every day / We sang in the sunshine / Then she went on her way.
“We’ll Sing in the Sunshine,” Gale Garnett, 1964

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Your tears, they tell me / There’s really no way / Of ending your troubles / With things you can say / And time will tell you / To stay by my side, oh / To keep on trying / Till there’s no more to hide.
“Time Has Told Me,” Nick Drake, 1969

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And I need you more than want you / And I want you for all time.
“Wichita Lineman,” Glen Campbell, 1968

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Keys that jingle in your pocket, words that jangle in your head / Why did summer go so quickly? Was it something that you said?
“The Windmills of Your Mind,” Noel Harrison, 1968

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There’s no need for anger, there’s no need for blame / There’s nothing to prove, everything’s still the same / Just a table standing empty by the edge of the sea / Means farewell, Angelina, the sky is trembling / And I must leave
“Farewell, Angelina,” Joan Baez, 1965

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While I’m far away from you, my baby / Whisper a little prayer for me, my baby / Because it’s hard for me, my baby / And the darkest hour is just before dawn.
“Dedicated to the One I Love,” The Mamas & The Papas, 1967

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And when I die and when I’m gone / There’ll be one child born and a world to carry on / … / Comin’ as I go, and a world to carry on.
“And When I Die,” Peter, Paul and Mary, 1966

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Show me the country where the bombs had to fall / Show me the ruins of the buildings once so tall / And I’ll show you a young land with so many reasons why / And there but for fortune may go you or I.
“There But for Fortune,” Phil Ochs, 1966

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Featured image credit: Jack Robinson/ Archive Photos via Getty Images

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About the Author
Melanie Davis-McAfee
M. Davis-McAfee is a freelance writer, musician, and devoted cat mom of three living in southwest Kentucky.
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