After a long wait and many well-styled trailers, Inside Llewyn Davis finally opens this week. The soundtrack has been released on Spotify, iTunes, CD, and vinyl for a while now, and the songs, which Marcus Mumford had a hand in producing, are all excellent. However, to truly understand the moment in the '60s folk revival Inside Llewyn Davis attempts to capture, I think we all need a little extra assigned listening. Since the movie already blindsided us with a never-before-released Bob Dylan tune, I think we all need a refresher on all the other great things that went on in folk at the time. So, listen to this playlist (complete with b-sides), and get a proper folk education
"Green Green Rocky Road": Dave Van Ronk
Inside Llewyn Davis is loosely based on the life of Dave Van Ronk, who was titan of the Greenwich folk revival. This song is included on the soundtrack, but I think we should all take a listen again, since it's a great jaunt into folk guitar.
"500 Miles": Peter, Paul and Mary (Traditional Folk Song)
One of the themes of the film is the competition between commercialism and "authenticity" in '60s folk. This track, recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary but written much earlier, gives a great example of folk artists using traditional songs to gain some sort of credibility.
"Diamonds and Rust": Joan Baez
Joan Baez was and is the first name that comes to my mind when I think of important women in the folk revival. She wrote protest songs, had awesome hippie hair, and sang like her vocal chords were crying.
"Girl From The North Country": Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan (Bob Dylan)
I'll be honest, the original recording of this song (done by Bob Dylan on "The Traveling Bob Dylan") didn't make too much of a splash. Nonetheless, "The Traveling Bob Dylan" was an important album to folk, and I love this due with Johnny Cash. If you ever need to drink whiskey and reminisce, this is the perfect track for it.
"If I Had a Hammer": Pete Seeger
The folk revival without protest songs would be akin to an Adele album without sad piano--lost. Pete Seeger and others wrote many protests songs, but "If I Had a Hammer" is one of the most enduring. If you're staging a rally any time soon, I'd recommend learning guitar and playing this.
"The Boxer": Simon & Garfunkel
I can already hear the protests to this: "But what about 'The Sound of Silence?'" And yes, that was one of the most influential songs of the folk revival, and you should listen to it from time to time. I do think that it has been overused in shows like Arrested Development lately, so I left it off the list. So maybe it's time to overplay another Simon & Garfunkel hit, which happens to have some awesome "lie la lie" sections. Give it a listen and try not to hit the "repeat" arrow.
"Farewell": Judy Collins (Bob Dylan)
The trailer for Inside Llewyn Davis played an adaptation of this song, and a never-before-released version from Bob Dylan is on the soundtrack. But, even though Dylan never released his version, other artists (such as Judy Collins) did beautiful covers of it back in the day. Listen to this one so you can compare the two at the theatre.
"The House of the Rising Sun": Bob Dylan (Dave Van Ronk)
What a great example of the folk revival's tradition of covers of covers, which are also covers. In this video, Bob Dylan sings "House of the Rising Sun," and Dave Van Ronk explains how Dylan stole it from him. Watch out for the (not-so-surprising) twist at the end.
"Si J'avais un Marteau (If I had a Hammer)": Claude François
Even the French got on board with 60's folk, although they often turned its songs into campy pop tunes. Here is a great example of Claude François changing "If I Had a Hammer" from a protest song into a light-hearted romp.
"Both Sides Now": Dave Van Ronk
This is probably my favorite Dave Van Ronk original. It has that classic folk feel, yet captures a sort of bluesy mournfulness. It has also been covered by later singer-songwriter greats like Joni Mitchell.
"The Night They Drove Ol' Dixie Down": Joan Baez (The Band)
Even Joan Baez fell prey to the temptation of doing catchy, down-tempo covers. In this one, she takes The Band's almost jaunty rock and turns it into a ballad. Isn't adaptation wonderful?
"Benedictus": Simon and Garfunkel (Traditional Song)
Once again, I want to promote the lesser-known corners of Simon & Garfunkel's work. In this awesome arrangement, they tackle a choral classic with their characteristic meat-and-potatoes harmonies. Latin has never sounded so soulful.