Folk Music as Depicted in A Mighty Wind
The Christopher Guest film, A Mighty Wind, is a gentle send up of the folk revival period of the early 1960s. In particular, it offers a group of fictional folk artists modeled on many of the stars who emerged during this time. In the cross-section between pop accessibility and historical loyalty, groups such as the Kingsmen, Paul and Paula and the New Lost City Ramblers are reflected in such closely identifiable fictional groups as the Folksmen, Mitch and Mickey and the New Main Street Singers.
There is a definite truth to this film’s take on these performers as being somewhat soft-minded and tepid variations on the true folk tradition. Indeed, the reunion premise of the film views this movement as a very temporal phenomenon, existing with any kind of mainstream notability only for a very distinct set of years. This appropriately shows this take on folk music as a sort of fad which had only a brief moment in the spotlight. Compared to the permanent nature of true folk music, this satire demonstrates the somewhat superficial nature of the music in question.
It is thus that the social protest associated with such musicians as Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan is largely absent from the film in question. The ‘folk’ music captured here is of a decidedly different and less acerbic breed. Its interest is instead in history and the preservation of old forms. It is therefore that the characters in this film must be set apart in their portrayals from the hootenannies and protest gatherings that might otherwise be affiliated with the form. Instead, this type of ‘folk’ music would occupy a place in the mainstream market, providing a glimpse to the general public of a form which otherwise would have remained in such obscure cultural settings as the rally or hootenanny.