The Playlist Special: Top Artists Pick Their Personal Top 10

Fleet Foxes' Robin Pecknold: Folk Songs

"I started in high school with the big dogs: Dylan, Neil and Joni," says Pecknold, who went on to discover subgenres from Appalachian ballads to Australian work songs. "My favorite folk songs have melodies so amazing you don't even need a chorus."

  • 1.
    "Mama, You Been on My Mind" | Bob Dylan, 1964

    I would listen to this after breakups. He tries to seem nonchalant – but you can tell he gives a shit about the girl.

  • 2.
    "Me and My Woman" | Roy Harper, 1971

    He's a virtuosic guitarist. This song is on Stormcock, this great, densely layered folk opus.

  • 3.
    "Where Is My Wild Rose?" | Chris Thompson, 1977

    I love covering this. He plays simply, but with little licks to show he kicks ass at guitar.

  • 4.
    "My Only Son" | Duncan Browne, 1973

    I found Duncan on a folk blog. He's from a classical-guitar background, but he writes McCartney-esque melodies.

  • 5.
    "Lord Bateman and the Turkish Lady" | John Jacob Niles, 1956

    This is a ballad about a lord who travels to Turkey and ends up in prison. You listen just to hear what happens.

  • 6.
    "The Humpback Whale" | Nic Jones, 1980

    It's an Australian whaling song, kind of a travelogue of one season on the sea.

  • 7.
    "Lady-O" | Judee Sill, 1971

    She was a folk singer in California in the early 1970s who had this really unique style. Her lyrics are like a book of tarot cards, and her pitch is amazing.

  • 8.
    "The End of the Rainbow" | Richard and Linda Thompson, 1973

    The music is so well matched to the lyrics – it has these weird diminished chords, and the lyrics have creepy twists that match them in such a great way.

  • 9.
    "If I Had a Hammer (The Hammer Song)" | Pete Seeger, 1956

    It's the perfect poetic protest song, and broad enough that it can apply to almost anything. I love how it starts as wishful thinking and turns into full-on empowerment at the end. The Peter, Paul and Mary version has rad energy too.

  • 10.
    "Parasite" | Nick Drake, 1972

    A great example of how much you can do with a guitar and a voice. That whole Pink Moon record is pretty bleak. I would listen to him and Elliott Smith constantly in high school – I feel like they are kindred spirits.