“Authentic” is a concept that is commonly evoked in everyday life. We talk about authentic restaurants, authentic performance practices, authentic culture, and even the idea of an authentic self. Authenticity is also, more subtly, a quality statement about what is being talked about. That which is authentic is in some way superior to other “imitators.” In the context of academic folklore studies, authenticity is an almost necessary criteria. That which is not authentic is not worth academic study. It is this (at times inconsistent) demand for authenticity that shaped the act of collecting folklore, as well as impacted the image of folklore performers and their song repertoire. Through a brief history of American folklore collections, along with a meditation on the career of Huddie Ledbetter (known professionally as Leadbelly) and a few folk revival musicians, I wish to showcase the dangers of authenticity on both the academic collection of folklore as well as the staggering demands authenticity as well as other ideological demands place on the artist.
"Folk Contra Lore,"
Scholarly Horizons: University of Minnesota, Morris Undergraduate Journal: Vol. 7:
1, Article 2.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.morris.umn.edu/horizons/vol7/iss1/2