The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #44088   Message #647206
Posted By: Brian Hoskin
11-Feb-02 - 08:31 AM
Thread Name: OBIT: RIP Dave Van Ronk (1936-2002)
Subject: RE: OBIT: RIP Dave Van Ronk
Here's an obit. written for Reuters:

By Dean Goodman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Folk singer Dave Van Ronk, a respected figure on the early 1960s New York music scene and an early mentor of Bob Dylan, died Sunday after a battle with colon cancer, his record company said. He was 65.

Nicknamed "the mayor of Greenwich Village" on account of his authoritative knowledge of jazz and blues, Van Ronk died at 9:30 a.m. at New York University Medical Center, said Mitchell Greenhill, president of Folklore Prods., who was at his bedside.

Although Van Ronk never achieved commercial success, he remained an influential performer in the folk community. He toured and recorded -- and taught guitar -- until the end of last year when he underwent colon cancer surgery in November.

His most recent album was the jazz-influenced "Sweet and Lowdown," which was released last year via Santa Monica-based Folklore. He received a traditional folk Grammy nomination in 1996 for "From ... Another Time & Place."

Van Ronk's last concert, performed in Adelphi, Md. on Oct. 22 had been recorded and Van Ronk spent his last weeks going through the tapes to prepare a live album, Greenhill said.

Van Ronk, a Brooklyn, N.Y. native befriended Dylan after the young Minnesotan arrived in New York, and frequently allowed him to stay in his Greenwich Village apartment. Even after Dylan became a star, they maintained a "sporadic but warm" relationship, Greenhill said. In 1974, Van Ronk appeared with Dylan and others at a benefit for Chilean political prisoners.

Van Ronk recorded some 20 albums from the late 1950s, winning praise for his gritty interpretations of artists as diverse as Louis Armstrong, the Rev. Gary Davis, Leonard Cohen and Randy Newman. Greenhill said Van Ronk was also an excellent songwriter, and showcased his talents on the album "Going Back to Brooklyn."

Perhaps most notably, Van Ronk expanded the melody of the old blues song "He Was A Friend Of Mine," which was later adapted by the Byrds as a tribute to John F. Kennedy. Van Ronk also added the chords to "Baby, Let Me Follow You Down," and co-owned the copyright, said Greenhill.

Dylan recorded both those songs, along with other tunes covered by Van Ronk such as Bukka White's "Fixin' To Die," Blind Lemon Jefferson's "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean" and "Cocaine Blues." On the liner notes of his self-titled debut album, Dylan credited Van Ronk with turning him on to "House of the Rising Sun."

According to music writer David Hajdu's recently published book "Positively 4th Street," Van Ronk was so respected by the city's folk musicians that New York Times reporter Robert Shelton -- who gave Dylan his first major press exposure in 1961 -- asked him to vet important pieces before he submitted them to his editors.

Van Ronk is survived by his wife, Andrea Buocolo. A memorial service is pending, Greenhill said.