Roger McGuinn, Frontman of The Byrds, Curates Folk Den, Lets You Download Free Folk Music

Roger McGuinn of the Byrds was one of the most influ­en­tial singers and gui­tarists of the 1960s. Although his own influ­ences range from Ravi Shankar to John Coltrane, McGuin­n’s roots are in folk music. The Byrds were among the first to fuse folk with rock and roll. “I’ve always con­sid­ered myself a folksinger,” McGuinn told Neal Conan this week on NPR’s Talk of the Nation, “even though we strapped on Rick­en­backer gui­tars and played pret­ty loud. But I was a folksinger at heart because we always loved folk music. I loved the melodies and the sto­ries.”

In the mid 1990s McGuinn was lis­ten­ing to a Smith­son­ian Folk­ways record when it occurred to him that he was­n’t hear­ing tra­di­tion­al songs played any­more, even in folk clubs. “So I thought, ‘What’s going to hap­pen when Odet­ta dies?’ Well, as you know, she just passed away. And Pete Seeger’s, what, he’s 92, 93. He’s get­ting up there. So I thought I’d do some­thing about it.”

McGuinn had always been an ear­ly adopter of new tech­nolo­gies. He owned a mobile tele­phone in the ear­ly 1970s and bought his first per­son­al com­put­er in 1981. So in 1995 he got the idea of estab­lish­ing Folk Den, a web­site ded­i­cat­ed to pre­serv­ing the tra­di­tion­al folk music that he loves. On the first day of each month, McGuinn posts a new song.  There are now almost 200 MP3 files online, avail­able for free down­load. In some of the record­ings McGuinn is joined by his wife, Camil­la. To get the fla­vor of what’s avail­able, here are three quick exam­ples:

But you real­ly must vis­it the Folk Den Web site, which includes lyrics, chords, visu­al mate­r­i­al and a lit­tle intro­duc­tion to each song writ­ten by McGuinn. And to hear McGuin­n’s Talk of the Nation inter­view, which includes musi­cal per­for­mances, vis­it the NPR Web site.

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