10 Most Popular Folk Music Artists According to Millennials: Ranked

Michael Ochs Archives / Michael Ochs Archives via Getty Images

As music genres fade in and out of popularity, the most successful and interesting artists and albums will influence the tastes and styles of future music. So, when it comes to folk music in the United States, who have been the most popular artists, and what impact have they had on the musical landscape?

All the data in this list are taken from surveys on YouGov, in which members of the Millennial generation were asked who their favorite folk artists are. The artists are listed according to their popularity with millennials.

Why Are We Talking About This?

Buy synthesizer piano in music store. Professional analog synth device with classic pianist keyboard and regulators. Sound recording studio equipment for sale
Source: hurricanehank /
Music is more than just a hobby or distraction, it is the whole point of being alive.

The music industry is absolutely massive, and there is an endless amount of information to learn and a rich history for the aspiring musician, music historian, or amateur music enjoyer. No musical genre exists independently of any other. Understanding the history of popular music genres helps inform us about the present state of music, and where it might be headed.

#10 David Crosby

Source: Mike Windle / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images
David Crosby performing.
  • Life: 1941–2023
  • Number of Albums Sold: Over 2 million
  • Popular Songs: Triad, Almost Cut My Hair, Lady Friend, Laughing, Long Time Gone

David Van Cortlandt Crosby was born on August 14, 1941, in Los Angeles. He was born to cinematographer, Floyd Crosby, and started playing guitar when he was 16. He started his music career by co-founding The Byrds in 1963. After artistic and personality differences,  He was pushed out of The Byrds in 1967 and then teamed up with Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash and formed the folk group, Crosby, Stills, and Nash.

They released their classic folk-rock album “Crosby, Stills and Nash,” in 1969. They were launched into stardom and added Neil Young before releasing their next album, “Déjà vu.” The group didn’t want to be known as a band and rather wanted to be known as artistic individuals. The group performed at Woodstock in 1969 and changed its name to CSN&Y. The group often reunited and dissolved and often had periods of estrangement. During one of the periods of estrangement, all four members released solo albums. Crosby’s album was titled, “If I Could Only Remember My Name,” in 1971.

David Crosby

Source: Ilya S. Savenok / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images
A close-up of David Crosby.

In 1972, Crosby teamed back up with Nash and the pair released a few successful albums. Crosby then reunited with The Byrds in 1973 for one album, but it was unsuccessful. He also worked as a Session Singer for James Taylor, Jackson Brown, and Phil Collins throughout the 70s, 80s, and 90s.

Crosby suffered from cocaine and heroin addiction which started after his longtime girlfriend, Christine Hinton, died in a sudden car accident. A series of arrests led to him spending nine months in prison on charges of drug possession, hit and run drunk driving, and concealed weapons possession in 1985. He wrote two autobiographies with Carl Gottlieb about his tumultuous experience with drugs in 1988 and 2006.

Once released from prison, he became sober and CSN&Y released another successful album. He released a solo album soon after. He later teamed up with his son, James Raymond, and guitarist Jeff Pevar, and formed the jazz-rock band, CPR, which released their debut album in 1998. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame two times- once with The Byrds and once with CSN&Y. He released 5 successful solo albums from 2014-2021.

Crosby was known for opposing the War in Vietnam, promoting progressive causes, experimenting with psychedelics, and often infusing politics into his performances and music. He was a sailing enthusiast and bought a 74-foot schooner, named Mayan, that he returned to through personal hardship. He wrote many of his songs aboard his boat and enjoyed it until he sold it in 2014. He dealt with several health issues including diabetes, a liver transplant, hepatitis C, and two heart attacks. He was married to Jane Dance for 35 years and had one child. He had 2 other children with girlfriends Jackie Gutherie and Debbie Donovan and was the sperm donor for two other children for singer Melissa Etheridge and her partner, Julie Cypher. He also had another child in 1962 with Celia Crawford Ferguson, but the couple decided to place the child for adoption. He later reconnected with this child, James Raymond, and the two formed the band, CPR.

About his life, he said, “I was tremendously lucky, surviving injury, illness, and stupidity. As for the music, I was blessed early and often, from the Byrds to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, singing with Graham, meeting my son and creating CPR, and exploring the wonderful, exploratory forward motion of new music.” Crosby died at the age of 81.

#9 Jimmy Buffett

Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Michael Ochs Archives via Getty Images
Jimmy Buffett performing.
  • Life: 1946–2023
  • Number of Albums Sold: 20 million
  • Popular Songs: Margaritaville, Cheeseburger in Paradise

Jimmy William Buffett was born in December 1964 in Mississippi. Most of his childhood was spent in Alabama. He released his first album in 1970 after attending the University of Southern Mississippi where he learned to play the guitar. He released his first album as a country singer in Nashville Tennessee. Later in 1970, he transitioned to the folk genre and released his first folk-country debut album.

After moving to Key West, Florida after a few years, he signed a contract with ABC-Dunhill and released his 1973 album, White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean. He soon started to gain fans who referred to themselves as “Parrotheads,” wore Hawaiian shirts, and loyally followed him as he toured. In 1977, his sixth album, Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes launched him into the mainstream with his hit single, “Margaritaville.” He finished the song in one day and performed it at a concert that night. This song was his only to chart in the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100.

He capitalized on the success of the song, Margaritaville in 1985 by opening a store and multiple restaurants under the same name. In the 1990s, he launched more restaurants, a tequila brand, a beer brand, an apparel line, a footwear line, casinos, a cruise ship, a radio station, a musical, 30 branded resorts and hotels, and even retirement communities. Buffett also started his own record labels, Margaritaville Records and Mailboat Records in 1992 and 1999.]

Jimmy Buffett

Source: Rick Diamond / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images
Jimmy Buffett in a live show.

Jimmy has teamed up with country artists like Alan Jackson, Clint Black, Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith, and George Strait. He continued producing records and playing concerts with his Coral Reefer Band every year up until his death in 2023.

Buffett was married to Margie Washicheck from 1969-1972, and then to Jane Slagsvol from 1977 until his death in 2023. The couple had 3 children, Savannah, Sarah, and Cameron. He was an avid sailor, pilot, and environmental activist. He has a crustacean named after him called the Gnathia jimmybuffetti that calls the Florida Keys its home.

He was diagnosed with Merkel Cell skin cancer in 2019. His last appearance on-stage was a surprise performance at a Mac McAnally concert where he appeared barefoot and played a 6-song set. He passed away at the age of 76 peacefully at his home on Long Island on September 1, 2023.

#8 Art Garfunkel

Source: Eddie Mallin CC-BY / Wikimedia Commons
A photo of Art Garfunkel.
  • Active Dates: 1962–1993
  • Number of Albums Sold: 2.9 million
  • Popular Songs: All I Know, I Only Have Eyes For You, Bright Eyes, Beat Love

Art Garfunkel was born on November 5, 1941, In Forest Hills, New York, and attended high school with Paul Simon. He credits his dad, who was a traveling salesman, for instilling within him a love of music when he bought Art a wire recorder when he was 4. In grade school, he was known for performing in plays, constantly being surrounded by girls, and belting songs down the hallways. He met Paul Simon when the two both performed in their 6th-grade production of Alice in Wonderland. Since then, the two sang in school talent shows, practiced long hours in garages and basements, and ended up releasing their first album under the name, “Tom & Jerry,” while in High School.

Art Garfunkel

Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Michael Ochs Archives via Getty Images
Art Garfunkel with Simon.

The two decided to perform under the names Tom Landis and Jerry Graph, because they feared their names sounded “too Jewish,” and might hamper their success. Their single, “Hey Schoolgirl,” landed them a contract with Big Records and an appearance on American Bandstand. The pair split up after high school and then came back together as Simon and Garfunkel in 1962. During college at Columbia University, Garfunkel released solo tracks using the name Artie Garr.

Besides being the other half of the duo, Simon and Garfunkel, Art Garfunkel has his solo career and released albums including, Angel Care (1973), Watermark (1977), Scissors Cut (1981), and Up ‘Til Now (1993). Art Garfunkel is also known for starring in movies, and TV shows, and walking across the United States over a 12-month period.

He was married and divorced to Linda Grossman in the early 70s, and dated actress Laurie Bird before she died by suicide in 1979. His depressive episode from this loss inspired his album Scissor Cut. He has been happily married to Kim Cermak since 1988 after the couple met on the set of Good To Go. They have two children.

#7 James Taylor

Source: Michael Kovac / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images
James Taylor performing live.
  • Active Dates: 1970–2015
  • Number of Albums Sold: 1 million
  • Popular Songs: Wichita Lineman, Golden Moments, Up on the Roof, Carolina in My Mind

James Taylor was born on March 12, 1948, in Boston, Massachusetts. He is credited for bringing confessional poetry to folk rock, and for being one of the greatest troubadours of the 1970s. He released his first album in 1968 in England which went largely unnoticed. His career really took off in 1970 with the release of his next album, Sweet Baby James. Over his career, he has produced 17 albums, the last of which was released in 2015. He has won several Grammys, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.

James Taylor

Source: Gary Gershoff / Getty Images
James Taylor performing.

James Taylor is known for songs that are about his life, and life passages of the baby boomer generation. He was married and divorced to Carly Simon and says that some of his greatest inspirations were Hank Williams and Appalachian Folk Music.

#6 Simon and Garfunkel

Source: Kevin Winter / Getty Images
Simon and Garfunkel performing live.
  • Active dates: 1962-1970
  • Number of Albums Sold: 37,820 million
  • Popular Songs: Bridge over Troubled Water, The Sound of Silence, The Boxer, Mrs. Robinson, Homeward Bound

The pair first started performing in High school under the name, “Tom & Jerry,” and released their first single, “Hey, Schoolgirl,” which made it to #49 on the pop chart. The two separated for a time and then reunited in 1964 and released, “Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.” After producer, Tom Wilson, re-mastered their song, The Sound of Silence, and it became a #1 hit in 1966. This launched the pair into stardom.

Simon and Garfunkel

Source: Central Press / Getty Images
Simon and Garfunkel performing.

Other albums released include “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme,” “Sounds of Silence,” “Bookends,” The soundtrack to the hit movie, “The Graduate,” “Mrs. Robinson,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Greatest Hits Album,” and “The Concert in Central Park Live Album.”

Simon and Garfunkel earned six Grammy awards, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, has gone on world tours, has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and last performed together at the New Orleans Jazz Fest in 2010.

#5 Paul Simon

Source: RB / Redferns via Getty Images
Paul Simon with his guitar.
  • Active Since: 1957
  • Number of Albums Sold: Over 28 million
  • Popular Songs: Kodachrome, Graceland, You Can Call Me Al, Still Crazy After All These Years

Paul Frederic Simon was born on October 31, 1949, in New Jersey. When he was in high school, he recorded his first album with his school friend, Art Garfunkel in 1957. They got back together in 1964 and recorded, “Wednesday Morning 3 a.m.,” then broke up again. Paul Simon then went to England to break into the folk scene as a solo artist. Back in the U.S., Tom Wilson, the producer of their joined album added drums, electric guitar, and bass to the previously all-acoustic song, “Sound of Silence.” This launched Simon and Garfunkel into popularity and the duo got back together in 1966. The Two created 2 more albums together before Simon returned to his solo career in the 70s. He produced 5 more solo albums, and then wrote and starred in a movie, One-Trick Pony, in 1980. He is still releasing music today. His most recent album, Seven Palms, was released in 2023.

Paul Simon

Source: Ilya S. Savenok / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images
Paul Simon performing.

He married Peggy Harper in 1970 and then divorced in 1975 after having 1 child. He then married Carrie Fisher in 1983 and divorced in 1984. The two continued to date post-divorce until 1991. He is currently married to Edie Brickell since 1992 and the couple has had 3 children together.

One of his most famous quotes is, “Look at what we did to the planet. We ruined the planet. Take away the human beings and all their inventions and all the stuff we’ve made and the mess we make and you’ve got a much cleaner planet. It would be a lot healthier than it is right now. Would life be better for a zebra without mankind? Absolutely. Would it be better for the trees? Absolutely.”

#4 Bruce Springsteen With the Sessions Band

Source: Will Russell / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images
Bruce Springsteen performing live.
  • Active Since: 1997
  • Number of Albums Sold: Over 700,000
  • Popular Songs: The Ghost of Tom Joad, Old Dan Tucker, Atlantic City, Further On

Bruce Springsteen has been intermittently performing with The Sessions Band (sometimes called The Seeger Sessions Band) since 1997. Bruce Springsteen With The Sessions Band sometimes has 20–22 members. The core members include Bruce Springsteen, Frank Bruno, Jeremy Chatzky, Larry Eagle, Charles Giordano, Sam Bardfeld, Soozie Tyrell, Mark Clifford, Eddie Manion, Richie “La Bamba,” Rosenberg, Patti Scialfa, Mark Pender, Lisa Lowell, Art Baron, Greg Liszt, Clark Gayton, Curt Ramm, Marty Rifkin, Marc Anthony Thompson, Curtis King, Jr., and Cindy Mizelle.

Bruce Springsteen With the Sessions Band

Source: Fin Costello / Redferns via Getty Images
Bruce Springsteen during a performance.

After recording together on the album, Where Have All The Flowers Gone: The Songs of Pete Seeger, the group disbanded in 2004. Together, they released some recordings done in 1997 along with new material released in 2005 as The Second Seeger Session. They released a final album called We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions in 2006.

#3 Weird Al Yankovic

Source: Kevin Winter / Getty Images
Photo of Weird Al Yankovic.
  • Active Since: 1976
  • Number of Albums Sold: 12 million
  • Popular Songs: White and Nerdy, Word Crimes, Amish Paradise, Smells Like Nirvana

Alfred Matthew Yankovic was born on October 23, 1959, in Los Angeles. His father was Yugoslavian and his mother was Italian. His parents were big fans of polka king, Frankie Yankovic, and bought him his first accordion from an accordion salesman who was soliciting business for a music school. After graduating from high school as the valedictorian, Yankovic attended the California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo for architecture. While there, he became known as “Weird Al,” while hosting a radio show. His first song, “My Bologna,” was wildly successful and recorded in a men’s bathroom.

Weird Al Yankovic

Source: Pgiam / iStock via Getty Images
Weird Al Yankovic is known for his accordion playing.

Weird Al has 14 albums under his belt, is also an actor, producer, and writer, and has created a line of edible underwear. In 1989 he produced the hit film UHF and had his own CBS series called The Weird Al Show in the late 19990s. He has made appearances on shows such as Comedy Bang! Bang!, The Simpsons, 30 Rock, Galavant, The Goldbergs, Adventure Time, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Uncle Grandpa, and Bojak Horseman. His 2011 book, When I Grow Up, made him a New York Times Best-Selling Author, as well as his book, My New Teacher and Me!

#2 Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan | 37th AFI Life Achievement Award On TV Land Prime - Show
Source: Kevin Winter / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images
A photo of Bob Dylan.
  • Active Since:1959
  • Number of Albums Sold: 125 million
  • Popular Songs: Blowin’ In The Wind, Like A Rolling Stone, The Times They Are A-Changin’ and Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right

Bob Dylan was born on May 24, 1941, in Duluth Minnesota. As a teen, he taught himself how to play the piano and guitar and started performing. He started performing as Bob Dylan in 1959 when he attended the University of Minnesota. He moved to New York in 1960 and started performing in folk clubs in Greenwich Village. He was discovered in 1961 and signed on with Colombia.

Bob Dylan

Source: Kevin Winter / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images
Bob Dylan performing live.

Bob is credited for creating the “folk-rock” genre with his 1965 album, Bringing it All Back Home. He is also credited for introducing The Beatles to pot-smoking in 1964. His discography includes 40 albums that span multiple genres including folk, country, and Fundamentalist Christian. His latest album, Shadow Kingdom, was released in 2023.

#1 Jewel

Source: Duane Prokop / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images
A photo of Jewel performing.
  • Active Since: 1995
  • Number of Albums Sold: Over 27 million
  • Popular Songs: Who Will Save Your Soul, You Were Meant for Me, Foolish Games, and Hands

Jewel Kilcher was born on May 23, 1974, in Payson, UT.  She grew up in a traditional Mormon family in Alaska until her parents divorced when she was eight. She says that after that happened, her father turned into an alcoholic and was physically abusive towards her.  Her parents, Atz Kilcher and Nedra Carroll had her start to join them on stage during their performances. She had her first performance at the age of six, and after her parents divorced, she continued to perform with her father.


Source: Paul Natkin / Archive Photos via Getty Images
Jewel performing live.

When Jewel was 15, she won a vocal scholarship to Interlochen and started performing as a solo artist. After leaving Interlochen with the new skills of songwriting, guitar playing, and yodeling, she moved in with her mom in San Diego to make her way into the music industry.

She was discovered at a coffeehouse in San Diego and signed with Atlantic Records in 1994. Her first album, Pieces of You, came out in 1996. In the same year, she toured as the opening act for Bob Dylan and Neil Young. Her first album sold over 11 million copies.

Her discography includes albums, Spirit, This Way, 0304, Goodbye Alice in Wonderland, Perfectly Clear, Lullaby, Sweet and Wild, The Merry Goes ‘Round, and Picking up the Pieces. Besides being an accomplished folk music artist, she is an actress, writer, poet, activist, and mother. She established the Higher Ground for Humanity Foundation in 1998, which focuses on improving communities in South America, Central America, India, and Africa by supporting education, sustainable improvements, and building alliances with local organizations. She launched Project Clean Water in 1997, which focuses on providing clean water globally. She is currently the spokesperson for a women’s cancer foundation, the Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation. She also launched her Never Broken Initiative to promote emotional wellness for troubled children.

ALERT: Take This Retirement Quiz Now  (Sponsored)

Take the quiz below to get matched with a financial advisor today.

Each advisor has been vetted by SmartAsset and is held to a fiduciary standard to act in your best interests.

Here’s how it works:
1. Answer SmartAsset advisor match quiz
2. Review your pre-screened matches at your leisure. Check out the advisors’ profiles.
3. Speak with advisors at no cost to you. Have an introductory call on the phone or introduction in person and choose whom to work with in the future

Take the retirement quiz right here.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us?
Contact the 24/7 Wall St. editorial team.