Mayor Of Macdougal Street: A Memoir Paperback – Mar 6 2006
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"Gravel-voiced, folk singing giant Dave Van Ronk was an early Dylan mentor, and his (sadly posthumous) memoir lives and breathes the Village underground..." Mojo "A genial and picaresque ramble." New York Times"
About the Author
Dave Van Ronk (1936-2002) was one of the founding figures of the 1960s folk revival, but he was far more than that. A pioneer of modern acoustic blues, a fine songwriter and arranger, a powerful singer, and one of the most influential guitarists of the '60s, he was also a marvelous storyteller, a peerless musical historian, and one of the most quotable figures on the Village scene. The Mayor of MacDougal Street is a first-hand account by a major player in the social and musical history of the '50s and '60s. It features encounters with young stars-to-be like Bob Dylan, Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs, and Joni Mitchell, as well as older luminaries like Reverend Gary Davis, Mississippi John Hurt, and Odetta. Elijah Wald wrote the acclaimed study of blues legend Robert Johnson, Escaping the Delta. He also wrote the biography Josh White: Society Blues and Narcocorrido: A Journey into the Music of Drugs, Guns, and Guerrillas. He lives in Los Angeles.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
It is a wonderful insight to the NYC folk scene before, during, and after their golden ago. It tells stories from distant point-of-view that was there when it all occurred but has the separation in time and place to take the sharp emotions away. Sure Bobby Dylan took his arrangement of "House of the Rising Sum" (that was then copied by the Animals), sure with other management he might have been more famous, sure with a little more luck (and a better record company) he might have had a top ten song. But the book is from a later page in his life.
Once I started the book I could not put it down - each page was a new adventure. To read the words on the pages is the same as to have heard him talk between songs at one of his shows - minus the inflections.
Why four stars rather than five? For so much that was not there. Van Ronk died near the start of the project and his co-author did a wonderful job of keeping Van Ronk's voice and putting the pieces together. The fifth star is reserved for what might have been.
One thing you might expect from Van Ronk, whose crucial musical development predated the '60s folk boom, is a sort of world-weariness. But he has none of that. Beneath his crusty exterior lies an open mind and an almost childlike awe of good music and good art. What a refreshing book, and what a unique artist he was. His takes on Dylan, Phil Ochs, and Tom Paxton are right on.
I knew that Van Ronk died before the book was finished, and I kept waiting for the tone and quality to flag, or the voice to change, but it never did. A great job by Elijah Wald. I've got to buy his other books now.
He is at home to us in the pages of this memoir.
The tellings are ' of their time'. At once rough and poignant. My 4 **** rating is petulant. Simply that he (whose voice is indominitable - I said that- and that of a 'Soldier of Fortune' - Dylan said that) had the temerity to die before he could personally add more to his wonderfully honest appreciation of the times in which he lived, based on the origins of a music form that has been purloined by minor talents that have received massive public attention and notoriety. Nothing glib here. It's straight van Ronk.