Said Big Bill Broonzy, in 1956, as he was performing “This Train (Bound for Glory)” alongside Pete Seeger to an audience of college students.
Quoted in “Black Folk Musicians Are Reclaiming the Genre/In returning to a songbook that is decades — if not centuries — old, a new generation of performers is expanding the definition of what their traditional art form can be” (NYT).
“Folk,” meaning people in general, goes back to Old English.
The Oxford English Dictionary traces it back as far as 999: “Þa elkede man fram dæge to dæge, & swencte þæt earme folc þe on ðam scipon lagon.” Chaucer used it, in Middle English, c1405, that’s surprisingly readable: “Vp on thise steedes, grete and whyte Ther seten folk.”
And here’s Alexander Hamilton, with American terseness: “There were Folks killed in 1723.” That made me think of Ilhan Omar’s “Some people did something.”