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The American Ballad24:50

This article is more than 14 years old.
photoThe American ballad is older than America itself. The tradition harkens back centuries to medieval songs sung while dancing. It evolved to mean any narrative song — the freedom to tell a story free of any defined structure.

Wide-ranging ballads became the medium Americans used to tell each other about themselves. The stories they told were tales of love and liberty, death and murder, sin and glory, darkness and redemption. They captured plain and powerful visions of America, all as true and tragic as the soil.

Hear about the story of America as told through the American ballad.


Greil Marcus, co-editor along with Sean Wilentz of the new book, "The Rose and the Briar: Death, Love and Liberty in the American Ballad."

This program aired on December 17, 2004.

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