Dave Van Ronk
The extraordinary folk and blues singer and guitarist Dave Van Ronk is inextricably linked, first and foremost, to the folk music scene in New York City’s Greenwich Village in the 1960s. Van Ronk, born in Brooklyn on June 30, 1936, and of Irish origin, has been performing for more than four decades. He made his first record for Moses Asch’s Folkways label in 1959 and won far-reaching recognition for his recordings with Prestige in the 1960s.
He performed at countless festivals, such as the annual Newport event, and toured the US and internationally. Although he hasn’t been as productive as some other composers from that epoch, his contribution, most of all, was in his original performances and interesting rearrangements of classic blues songs. On stage, he played the kind of music he liked, never paying much attention to the boundaries that ordinarily separate jazz and blues and country and folk. In the ?60s, folk musicians and others who considered themselves such (it was enough to sing your own songs and to play your guitar) fled to New York from all over. Van Ronk was there to witness their music, their ideologies and insecurities. Greenwich Village belonged to Bob Dylan, Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs, Joni Mitchell and Rumblin’ Jack Elliot and their followers.
When the folk climate started to cool down after 1965, Van Ronk already had a reputation of the most eloquent and imitated folk singing voice in Greenwich Village. His folk-rock band ?Hudson Dusters? did not last long enough to take him away from his solo acoustic affairs. And if the early 1970s, bringing a sort of a ?folk depression’ with the advancing of the hippie era (the clubs were closing down and record labels weren’t signing acoustic acts any more), did not change Van Ronk essentially, nothing would. His fingerpicking complex guitar technique and his distinguished vocal interpretation stayed almost unchanged by times and fashions. His models are still recognizable: Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby and Reverend Gary Davis among them. Dave Van Ronk passed away on February 10, 2002.