The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #44088   Message #4114789
Posted By: Felipa
30-Jul-21 - 06:46 AM
Thread Name: OBIT: RIP Dave Van Ronk (1936-2002)
Subject: RE: OBIT: RIP Dave Van Ronk (1936-2002)

Dave Van Ronk
Musician and mentor to the young Bob Dylan
Tony Russell
Wed 13 Feb 2002 03.05 GMT
The singer and guitarist Dave Van Ronk, who has died aged 65, had since the 1960s been one of the most distinctive voices in the musical community of New York's Greenwich Village, and long associated with the early career of Bob Dylan. A bearded bear of a man, he was equally at home in blues, jazz, Anglo-American folksong and ragtime. A Van Ronk performance was a switchback ride through American vernacular music, from Come All Ye Fair And Tender Ladies to Cocaine Blues and beyond, taking in Brecht and Weill's Mack The Knife and a setting of WB Yeats's poem, Song Of The Wandering Angus. His heroes, he liked to say, were Donald Duck, Lenin and WC Fields - "because they all did what they wanted".

Van Ronk grew up in Brooklyn, learned guitar at high school and began playing with traditional jazz bands. His interest in other African-American folk musics was not stirred until he encountered the singers Odetta and Josh White in the late 1950s, when he began performing on New York's club and coffeehouse circuit. For a time he roomed with the writer and music historian Sam Charters, who was shortly to publish his pioneering book The Country Blues, and the two played in bands called the Orange Blossom Jug Five and the Ragtime Jug Stompers.

Van Ronk was one of the first villagers to draw attention to the compositions of a younger musician lately arrived in New York, when he began to sing Bob Dylan's He Was A Friend Of Mine. He later recorded it on his 1963 album Folksinger. When Dylan first came to New York, he often stayed with Van Ronk and his wife, Terri Thal, at their apartment on West 15th Street. For a few months Thal was his business manager, before Dylan put his affairs in the hands of the wily Albert Grossman, of whom Van Ronk said: "Albert was easy to deal with. It wasn't till maybe two days after you would see Albert that you'd realise your underwear had been stolen."

Dylan listened attentively to Van Ronk's huge repertoire, regarding him, in his biographer Robert Shelton's phrase, as "his first New York guru . . . a walking museum of the blues". Van Ronk was the source of several songs Dylan later recorded, among them Dink's Blues and House Of The Rising Sun, Dylan's recording of which was in turn absorbed by the Animals and became a pop hit.

By the mid-1960s, Van Ronk was a major figure on the East Coast folk scene, appearing at folk festivals and Carnegie Hall, teaching guitar and recording steadily. People had begun to call him "the mayor of Greenwich Village", a phrase that may have originated with Shelton, who described him as "a tall, garrulous, hairy man of three-fifths Irish descent . . . he resembled an unmade bed strewn with books, record jackets, pipes, empty whiskey bottles, lines from obscure poets, finger picks and broken guitar strings."

As with many of his contemporaries, his music was fuelled by political conviction: in the 1960s he was dedicated to the civil rights movement, and he was a lifelong Trotskyist, with a relish for involvement and confrontation. A friend asked him how he came to be arrested in the 1969 riot when New York police busted a gay bar, the Stonewall Inn. "I was passing by and I saw what was going down," he said, "and I figured, they can't have a riot without me!" In 1974 he appeared with Dylan and others at a benefit concert for Chilean political refugees.

He continued to perform and to record. On the collection Let No One Deceive You (1990), he and the English folksinger Frankie Armstrong sang the lyrics of Bertolt Brecht, while the double albums A Chrestomathy (1992) and To All My Friends In Far-Flung Places (1994) were bulging folios of musical Americana from Scott Joplin's The Entertainer to Dylan's Subterranean Homesick Blues.

He played his last concert in October, and, while recovering from an operation for colon cancer, was sorting through tapes to put together for his next album. He is survived by his second wife, Andrea Buocolo.

ยท David "Dave" Van Ronk, folk musician, born June 30 1936; died February 10 2002