Definition and usage
"Singer-songwriter" is used to define popular music artists who write and perform their own material, which is often self-accompanied generally on acoustic guitar or piano. Such an artist performs the roles of composer, lyricist, vocalist, sometimes instrumentalist, and often self-manager. According to AllMusic, singer-songwriters' lyrics are often personal but veiled by elaborate metaphors and vague imagery, and their creative concern is to place emphasis on the song rather than their performance of it. Most records by such artists have a similarly straightforward and spare sound that placed emphasis on the song itself.
The term has also been used to describe songwriters in the rock, folk, country, and pop music genres including Henry Russell, Aristide Bruant, Hank Williams, and Buddy Holly. It came into popular usage in the 1960s onwards to describe songwriters who followed particular stylistic and thematic conventions, particularly lyrical introspection, confessional songwriting, mild musical arrangements, and an understated performing style. According to writer Larry David Smith, because it merged the roles of composer, writer, and singer, the popularity of the singer-songwriter reintroduced the Medieval troubadour tradition of "songs with public personalities" after the Tin Pan Alley era in American popular music.
Song topics include political protest, as in the case of the Almanac Singers, Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie.