State of Sound

Folk music is the celebration of one nation and a multitude of sounds.

From its humanitarian base, Illinois Folk music is a hybrid of banjo, dulcimer, fiddle, guitar, harmonica, ukulele, and more. The sound is a fertile product of its environment, keeping loyal to cultural identity. It has been said that if it was never new and it never gets old, then it is a Folk song. There is no regard for style or fashion. And the voices: steadily filled with hopeful harmonies--sometimes blood harmonies--but always coming together in a chorus of community. 

Listen to the words, for they are the songbooks for our times.

Featured Artist:
John Prine 

Play the Biography

 Biography Transcript

John Prine

John Prine was born in Maywood, Illinois in 1946. After working for the Maywood postal service and serving in the military, Prine started dabbling in songwriting.

Inspired by the music of Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan, who would both later praise his work, John Prine felt his music fell somewhere in between. His style was mostly folk and country with a little bit of rockabilly thrown in for good measure.

Defining John Prine lyrically was much harder. His lyrics were often dark with stories of loneliness and the American struggle but frequently had pops of humor when you least expected it.

His career spanned over 50 years and many of his songs were covered by famous artists such as Bonnie Raitt, The Everly Brothers, Bette Midler and of course Johnny Cash. Prine won four Grammy awards. His first for a studio album that featured an all-star band including Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty.

John Prine passed away in April of 2020 due to complications from Covid-19. He was 73. 

Artists of the Sound

Roger McGuinn
Bonnie Koloc
Carl Sandburg
Steve Goodman



Chicago-born folk musician/songwriter Steve Goodman enjoyed a beloved but tragically short career. He penned the Chicago Cubs’s “Go Cubs Go” anthem, which has become a staple after every win at Wrigley Field. Goodman often performed the song in this jacket.

Courtesy of Rosanne Goodman


Originally featured on Steve Goodman’s self-titled debut in 1971, “The City of New Orleans” is arguably his most famous and enduring song. Both Arlo Guthrie and Willie Nelson recorded hit versions. Nelson’s cover won a Grammy in 1984 for Best Country Song following Goodman’s death. 

Courtesy of Rosanne Goodman

Carl Sandburg’s Washburn Guitar

Carl Sandburg, famed literary giant and Lincoln biographer, was also an accomplished musician. He collected music and musical instruments, such as this unique ca. 1925 “Bell-Shaped” Washburn guitar model 5270 from Chicago.

Courtesy of the National Park Service

John Prine’s Stage Prop Collection

John Prine was a music legend and an Illinois music treasure. He “exhibited” this collection of materials on a table during almost every performance. These materials  provided comfort and emotional support for Prine as he faced large audiences. 

Courtesy of the Prine Family

Enjoy this Sound?
Check out:

Social Links