A list and description of the spoken word music genre

The Music Genres List site covers many of the most popular styles of spoken word music, we hope this becomes the definitive list of spoken word music genres on the Internet, send an email to add @ musicgenreslist dot com if you feel any spoken word genres are missing and we’ll add to complete the music list.

Spoken Word

Spoken Word Music
Spoken word is a literary and performance art in which lyrics, poetry, sketches or stories are spoken instead of sung; it is a catch-all category for anything that doesn’t fall into the other established categories of performance. Rising in popularity in the late 1980s and early 1990s, spoken word records and spoken word music can use a musical background, but the emphasis lies on the speaker and his/ her word-based performance. Spoken word artists are often either performance poets, actors, and musicians, such as William S Burroughs, Ani DiFranco, Allen Ginsberg, Lauryn Hill, John Hall, Dana Bryant, William Shatner, Henry Rollins, Maggie Estep, Steve Martin, Alan Kaufman, Tom Waits, Paul Robeson, John Most, George Lopez, Paul Beatty, Ray Romano, and Bob Holman, among many others.

Spoken Word Performances
The spoken word genre can be used to recognize any word-based performance that takes on such forms as poetry reading, poetry slams (where artists duel each other in cabaret-style performances), political/ social commentary, storytelling, jazz poetry, sound-emphasis poetry, African-American toasting, reggae riddims, and other similar practices that do not rely exclusively on music, theatre or dance. Lyrics, poetry, sketches or stories are spoken rather than sung. The spoken word movement is popularly characterized by coffeehouse performances, improvisation, confessional and stream-of-consciousness styles, and liberal themes. These are usually performed by poets, actors, musicians, prose writers, commentators, and even comedians.

A History of the Spoken Word Genre
Spoken word as an oral tradition has always been around, since poetry after all has been in existence since the beginning of the civilization. One can go back in history to the time when Homer was reading The Odyssey. One can also examine the 1950s and 1960s when the politically-driven Beat poets like Jack Kerouac, William S Burroughs, and Allen Ginsberg began to use the spoken word to express themselves. But as a genre of performance art, spoken word found its origins in the late 1980s and early 1990s, during which time America saw an increased interest in spoken poetry. It is at this time that spoken word was assigned as the term for a new consciousness that sprung out of the Postmodern Art Movement.

Artists like Dana Bryant, Henry Rollins, John Hall, and Maggie Estep were among those who had spurred the spoken word movement, and it became so popular that MTV took notice of it and showcased spoken word performances in a show called “Spoken Word Unplugged”. The art and entertainment form thus made it to the television screen – and the mainstream.

Now, the spoken word has become as diverse as the people who perform them. Top-selling spoken word artists today include John Most, George Lopez, Ray Romano, and Paul Robeson, as well as Beat poets like Allen Ginsberg, William S Burroughs, and Jack Kerouac.

Music Stack: https://www.musicstack.com/

3 Responses
  • george butler
    February 11, 2019

    I think Ken Nordine is worth a specific mention in “Spoken Word”

    January 21, 2021

    Erykah Badu

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