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Below are a few of the institutions that house, represent, distribute and otherwise manage John's creative legacy. 


biography of a band

by Ray Allen

published in 2010 by University of Illinois Press

received a Certificate of Merit from the Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC) in the category of Best Research in Recorded Country, Ethnic or Folk Music, 2011

Gone to the Country chronicles the life and music of the New Lost City Ramblers, a trio of city-bred musicians who helped pioneer the resurgence of southern roots music during the folk revival of the late 1950s and 1960s. Formed in 1958 by Mike Seeger, John Cohen, and Tom Paley, the Ramblers introduced the regional styles of southern ballads, blues, string bands, and bluegrass to northerners yearning for a sound and an experience not found in mainstream music. 

Ray Allen interweaves biography, history, and music criticism to follow the band from its New York roots to its involvement with the commercial folk music boom. He explores how the Ramblers ascribed notions of cultural authenticity to certain musical practices and performers and how the trio served as a link between southern folk music and northern urban audiences who had little previous exposure to rural roots styles. Highlighting the role of tradition in the social upheaval of mid-century America, Gone to the Country draws on extensive interviews and personal correspondence with band members and digs deep into the Ramblers' rich trove of recordings.

films featuring John


Different Johns (2020)

‘Different Johns’ is a feature-length documentary film that explores the different lives of John Cohen: the folk musician, photographer, teacher, filmmaker and one of the faces of the Beat Generation. The film mirrors and pays tribute to John’s own, unscripted films and draws from his own extensive photographic and musical archive.

directed by Robert Carr

93 minutes


Some Crazy Magic: Meeting Harry Smith (2011)

John Cohen tells the story of his first meeting with eccentric filmmaker and collector Harry Smith, the man who created the Anthology of American Folk Music.

Directed and animation by Drew Christie

3:30 minutes


Play On, John: a Life in Music (2009)

John Cohen's influence is seen and heard throughout traditional American folk music. Many believe that he is the inspiration for the Grateful Dead's famous song Uncle Johns Band. A modern-day renaissance man, he is a painter, documentary filmmaker, teacher and photographer. This is the story of one artists amazing body of work, featuring rare footage of Bob Dylan, interviews with Pete Seeger and narrated by Sam Shepard.

Created by Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

30 minutes

articles about John

Throughout his life, John Cohen was written about by scholars and writers in various fields.



obituaries & tributes

John died in 2019 at the age of 87.  Many special remembrances were shared in the months and years following.


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