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Izzy Young: '60s folk icon now in Sweden

Acme 17 Feb 10 - 12:03 PM
Mark Ross 17 Feb 10 - 02:04 PM
Michael S 17 Feb 10 - 03:00 PM
Acme 17 Feb 10 - 07:27 PM
Art Thieme 17 Feb 10 - 08:13 PM
GUEST,Ira Mayer 18 Feb 10 - 10:11 AM
GUEST,Kiyohide Kunizaki 21 Feb 10 - 11:39 PM
GUEST,Ralphie 22 Feb 10 - 03:14 AM
Fidjit 22 Feb 10 - 04:11 AM
GUEST,annette levine korn 11 Aug 11 - 12:40 AM
Mark Ross 11 Aug 11 - 12:57 PM
Acme 11 Aug 11 - 09:15 PM
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Subject: Izzy Young: '60s folk icon now in Sweden
From: Acme
Date: 17 Feb 10 - 12:03 PM

A friend of mine has been researching the folk scene as part of a tour he is developing for Greenwich Village, in New York. He has lived there for many years and led tours other places, and finally had one of those "duh!" moments and decided to include his home ground.

Today he sent an article link to

Izzy Young: A folk man in Sweden defined by Dylan.

I searched Mudcat and found a couple of references, including from Big Mick that the late John Ross seems to have had some contact with Young in Manhattan in the '60s.

Here is the text, so we don't lose it, in case the online article goes away:

Izzy Young: A folk man in Sweden defined by Dylan

Published: 15 Feb 10 image

Folk music impresario Izzy Young went from organizing Bob Dylan's first concert to promoting small acts in Stockholm. Gabriel Stein charts the unusual journey of a man who dedicated his life to folk music.

Forty-nine years after organizing Bob Dylan's first concert at Carnegie Chapter Hall in New York City, Izzy Young still promotes, but he is a long way from the Big Apple, and the likes of Bob Dylan.

Right at this moment, he is sitting at a little wooden table in his Folklore Centrum near Mariatorget in Södermalm. He wears an old flannel shirt buttoned to the neck. He is looking onto the snowy street, his hands wrapped around a coffee mug. Young is considered one of the most important movers and shakers of the Greenwich Village folk scene in the sixties.

"I want to be recognized for what I do," says the 81-year-old, New York City native. "I work with Swedish music."

Back in 1957, he borrowed $1,000 to open the Folklore Center on MacDougal street in the bustling heart of Greenwich Village. It quickly became the hub for the American folk music scene.

Since then he has presented the debut concerts for hundreds of musicians, many of whom are now famous, such as Patti Smith, Emmylou Harris and Tim Buckley. On November 4th 1961, Young lost over $200 promoting Dylan's first concert, but he was able to persuade the 19-year-old to accept $10 in pay for his efforts.

Then in 1973, together with his French girlfriend, Young moved to Stockholm, in part, he says, because she wanted to, but also because he had fallen in love with Swedish folk music and he needed to get out of New York.

"When I was here the first time, I thought Sweden was utopia," explains Young. "I said, 'I don't want to die in New York, I'd rather die in Stockholm.' I mean look at these windows. It's a luxury to sit here. There's no bars, you can't get that in New York City."

Despite diabetes and a bit of a forward slouch, Young is full of energy. Every few minutes he percolates up out of his seat to show me a picture of his father's bakery in the Bronx or a letter he has received from Dylan's office.

He still presents concerts at the Folklore Centrum, which is the size of a small studio apartment. Here, floor-to-ceiling shelves overflow with folk music stuff; pamphlets, folders, books and who-knows-what-else. He has an extensive library on all types of folk, world, blues, Jewish and other types of music. He also publishes a newsletter seven times a year on the Swedish folk music scene. It costs 140 kronor per year and has about 3,000 subscribers.

In many ways, this son of Jewish, Polish immigrants picked the wrong country. He is a brazen New Yorker. He likes engagement, discussion and provocation, an attitude which clashes with reserved Swedes who avoid small talk, eye contact and confrontation.

"It's sad that Swedes don't come to see me...they can't deal with me," says Young. "Swedes come in and they say, 'what do you do here?' People don't understand. It's främmande. It looks strange to them. To have books on Sweden, in Sweden, they're not used to it."

If you can get beyond Young's complaints and his hard exterior -- and that is a big if -- you will find a good-natured man. Three and a half hours, two cinnamon buns and a pot of coffee into our one-hour interview, I realized that he likes to tell stories. He talked about the haze which emanated from his bathroom on MacDougal street, how he led square dances at resorts in Upstate New York (think Dirty Dancing) and how he was scared to death of Patti Smith when "she was a kid because she was such a damn revolutionary force."

If only words and memories were money. Young is apparently broke in real life and is living in a 36 square metre apartment in Fredhäll. "You know, it's a first apartment for someone who just got out of high school in Sweden," he says, laughing. "For me, it will be my last apartment."

In one instant, like a Zen master who has figured out the meaning of life, he displays pride for never sacrificing his love of folk music to make a good living. But in the next breath he sings a sad song of regret and exploitation.

"Everyone wants to record me, have me speak for them, journalists want to interview me, but no one wants to pay me," he says. "If I recorded everything I heard it would be worth millions of dollars today."

He does, however, posses a few material treasures. Somewhere in a bank vault in Stockholm lie two original manuscripts of Dylan songs which Dylan gave to Young more than 40 years ago.

He has been offered tens of thousands of dollars for the "Talking Folklore Center" manuscript, which he says was hanging on the wall by a tack in his store in Greenwich Village for twenty years. But he won't sell it. It is not his style. "I never earned $10,000 a year in my life, so it doesn't change anything for me to sell it now," he says.

The other manuscript, "Go Away You Bomb Go Away", is a talking blues song which Dylan wrote in 1963 when he was 22. Young rediscovered it in his archives and published it for the first time in 2007.

Young is irritated with parts of the past and lots of the present, but he seems to live in the now, and appears to be happy. He doesn't romanticize the sixties, or his time in New York. To him life is a continuum. When you ask him about his favorite concert or musician he is uncharacteristically quiet. He prefers live music and does not listen to "records," as he calls them.

"You see I have wild ideas but I do it pretty much at room temperature," he explains. "I am enjoying myself. That's what I should be doing."

For all of his accomplishments, Young's greatest achievement is perhaps the hardest for anyone to emulate. He discovered at an early age exactly what he loved and then he devoted his life to it. "He had a lot of resilience," Dylan wrote of Young in his book, "Chronicles: Volume One."

"I'm doing what I have to do," says Young. "I'm fighting, but I'm succeeding in my way. Without money, without getting paid. But I have freedom."

Gabriel Stein (

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Subject: RE: Izzy Young: '60s folk icon now in Sweden
From: Mark Ross
Date: 17 Feb 10 - 02:04 PM

I worked at Folklore Center in NY after Izzy left for Sweden. I met him when I was about 15 or 16, and walked into that fabulous place on Macdougal St. He threw me out, but I'm told that he did that to a lot of folks. Charlie Chin walked into the store for the 1st time and Izzy told him to watch the store, and then walked out! Izzy could be difficult at times, but his establishment was hallowed ground for those of us who loved Folk music.

Mark Ross

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Subject: RE: Izzy Young: '60s folk icon now in Sweden
From: Michael S
Date: 17 Feb 10 - 03:00 PM

Around 1990 I received a long distance introduction to Izzy from a mutual friend, historian Ron Cohen. Around that time, Izzy traveled to San Francisco, where I was then living, and my wife and I hosted him for a few days. We enjoyed wonderful stories of his youth in NYC, and of the Greenwich Village Folklore Center.

In 1993, Izzy returned the favor, and hosted me for a few days in Stockholm. Tom Paley, the great old-time musician (and original New Lost City Rambler), was also in town. One night, Tom, Izzy, and I went to the movies to see Harrison Ford star as The Fugitive. Here I am, I remember thinking, sitting with these folk revival legends watching this action movie. A strange experience it seemed, but why not? As I recall, Tom and I enjoyed it. Izzy--not too big on mass culture--seemed to think it was ridiculous. On that trip, for a nominal sum, Izzy sold me an original program for the Bob Dylan concert he promoted at Carnegie Chapter Hall, November 4, 1961, which was very poorly attended. It contains a Folklore Center "newsletter," one sheet, and a "bio" of Bob, which offered Bob's early BS that he was raised in Gallup, NM, and began playing carnivals at age 14.

I last saw Izzy in NYC in 2006, at a conference remembering the Friends of Old Time Music, a performance series he helped start in the early '60s. Izzy attended the program's evening concert with two beautiful dates, one on each arm. One was Suze Rotolo, his old friend, famous for her appearance on the cover of Dylan's Freewheeling album.

He is a true character.

Michael Scully

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Subject: RE: Izzy Young: '60s folk icon now in Sweden
From: Acme
Date: 17 Feb 10 - 07:27 PM

Tom (the NYC friend) tells me that Izzy figures throughout the Dave Van Ronk Mayor of McDougal Street memoir. I sent him that after someone here at Mudcat recommended it recently.


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Subject: RE: Izzy Young: '60s folk icon now in Sweden
From: Art Thieme
Date: 17 Feb 10 - 08:13 PM

I am glad Izzy is doing as well as he is. As we sometimes used to say in the '60s: "Izzy Young? No he isn't!" --- Even back then, he seemed like a cantankerous old fart.

1965, '66 and 1967 I was the Assistant Manager of Chicago's Old Town Folklore Center. Izzy came in one afternoon and let us know that he wasn't happy that our shop was called a folklore center. And then he l;eft.

Izzy, if you are reading this:

THANKS for being you -- and for doing what you did with sincerity and dedication. Like so many in the subculture, you made some waves on our little folkie pond.

Art Thieme

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Subject: RE: Izzy Young: '60s folk icon now in Sweden
From: GUEST,Ira Mayer
Date: 18 Feb 10 - 10:11 AM

Izzy wrote his autobiography years ago, and self-published it, selling it at the Folklore Center. When I started reviewing, I spent many a night at the Center on Sixth Ave., and at the Washington Square Methodist Church on W. 4th St. (now condos!), where he presented his "bigger" shows. Izzy educated me, gave me access from the time I was about 14 (then writing for the Rockaway Wave; later for the Village Voice and others), and introduced me to people like Dave Gahr. When Izzy left for Sweden, he entrusted his journals to me -- the large books people who came to the store wrote in -- in hopes that I could find a publisher interested in the folk scene. That was probably 30 years ago -- and no one was interested. Eventually, I shipped them to him in Sweden. We lost contact after that; it's distressing to hear he has a hard time making ends meet. I doubt he's ever presented a musician whose music he didn't respect -- that just wouldn't have been him.

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Subject: RE: Izzy Young: '60s folk icon now in Sweden
From: GUEST,Kiyohide Kunizaki
Date: 21 Feb 10 - 11:39 PM

from Tokyo

Special Event

Dakota Dave Hull (from U,S,A)
March 7th (Sunday) 2010

Live + Workshop
5:00PM ~ (Door Open)

Tokyo Folklore Center (from 1970)
Address/ 1-5-15 Chitose Sumida-ku Tokyo 130-0025

* we are Pete Seeger and the Folklore Center's
   Childlen in Far East.

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Subject: RE: Izzy Young: '60s folk icon now in Sweden
From: GUEST,Ralphie
Date: 22 Feb 10 - 03:14 AM

I did my only (paid) solo gig at Izzies shop in Mariatorget in 1990/91? Lunchtime in January, heavy snow, and yet he managed to get 25 or so people to come on a weekday lunchtime, to hear me playing mainly English tunes!
Fascinating guy, I remember him dropping into Swedish in the middle of sentences though! (I called it Swinglish!)
My fee? seem to recall it was about 30 Kronor!!
Glad to hear that he's still going.

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Subject: RE: Izzy Young: '60s folk icon now in Sweden
From: Fidjit
Date: 22 Feb 10 - 04:11 AM

Izzy's wbesite After many years of objection to the web. He's here with this one.


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Subject: RE: Izzy Young: '60s folk icon now in Sweden
From: GUEST,annette levine korn
Date: 11 Aug 11 - 12:40 AM

my late husband, hiram korn was a folknic and introduced me to izzy when we visited him at the folklore center in 1958. i bought a guitar for 25 dollars from izzy as an engagement gift for hiram who had a beautiful tenor voice and enjoyed singing english and scottish ballads.i'm sure i remember that izzy moved from mcdougal street a few years later, claiming that the rent was increased too much. i don't recall where the new folklore center was. in 1987 we visited izzy in stockholm and met his 12 year old daughter. we spent a few wonderful hours reminiscing about the good old days in n.y. that was the last time we saw him. recently we saw the program,"legends of folk:the village scene" on pbs-googled his name, found his address and will write to him. (aug.9th-2011

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Subject: RE: Izzy Young: '60s folk icon now in Sweden
From: Mark Ross
Date: 11 Aug 11 - 12:57 PM

The "new store", (it's long gone now) was on 6th Ave. next to the the movie theater.

Mark Ross

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Subject: RE: Izzy Young: '60s folk icon now in Sweden
From: Acme
Date: 11 Aug 11 - 09:15 PM

Nothing loads on that web site. Looks like it is there in name only.


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