John Greenway (folklorist)

John Greenway (19191991) was born Johannes Groeneweg in Liverpool, England. He was a noted author, singer and scholar who focused on American folk songs of protest.

Academic career

He received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, where his dissertation was on "American Folksongs of Social and Economic Protest." It was later published as American Folksongs of Protest (University of Pennsylvania Press 1953), which was the standard work in the field for 40 years. He also studied protest folk songs in Australia.[1] He recorded The Great American Bum and Other Hobo and Migratory Workers' Songs, and American Industrial Folksongs, both released by Riverside Records. In the 1950s he was a Professor of English at University of Denver. He was professor of anthropology in the late 1960s through the 1970s at the University of Colorado in Boulder, at times angering the establishment there.

During this time he wrote prolifically for conservative magazine The National Review. His columns remain highly controversial; after a 1969 column in defense of the genocide of Native Americans (in which he wrote, “Did the United States destroy the American Indian? No, but it should have.”), he responded to Native critics in a mock-pidgin dialect, saying that the “[C]hicken tracks of red brother ... makeum paleface heart heavy.”

He authored or edited 19 books, wrote hundreds of articles and reviews, and was for many years editor of the Journal of American Folklore, Southwestern Lore, and Western Folklore (acting).[2]

Other popular works by Greenway include The Inevitable Americans (1964) and Literature Among the Primitives (1964).[3] Many consider his best work to be Down Among the Wild Men, an account of his studies among the Aborigines of Australia, a people he greatly admired, and indeed found to be superior to the decadent white man of the Western world. This book was one time a Book of the Month Club selection.

Musical career

Greenway was also a collector and performer of songs in the talking blues genre. In 1958 he released the album Talking Blues, a collection of 15 songs which he had recorded and annotated.[4]


  • 1955 (recorded): American Industrial Folksongs, Riverside Records 12-607
  • 1958: Talking Blues, Folkways Records
  • 1960: Australian Folksongs And Ballads, Folkways Records (FW 8718)
  • 1961: The Cat Came Back And Other Fun Songs, Prestige/International (13011)
  • The Great American Bum: Hobo And Migratory Workers' Songs, Riverside Records (RLP 12-619)


  1. Australian Folksongs and Ballads, Smithsonian Folkways, 1959
  2. Tristram Potter Coffin (Spring 1992). "Obituaries: John Greenway (1919-1991)". The Journal of American Folklore. 105 (416): 208–210. JSTOR 541086.
  3. Ted Hughes (December 9, 1965). "Tricksters And Tarbabies". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved 18 January 2013.
  4. Talking Blues, Smithsonian Folkways, 1958.
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