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Dave Van Ronk

Guitarist, singer, songwriter, and native New Yorker Dave Van Ronk inspired, aided, and promoted the careers of numerous singer/songwriters who came up in the blues tradition. Most notable of the many musicians he helped over the years was Bob Dylan, whom Van Ronk got to know shortly after Dylan moved to New York in 1961 to pursue a life as a folk/blues singer. Van Ronk's recorded output was healthy, but he was never as prolific a songwriter as some of his friends from that era, like Dylan or Tom Paxton. Instead, Van Ronk's genius was derived from his flawless execution and rearranging of classic acoustic blues tunes.

Born June 30, 1936, in Brooklyn and raised there, Van Ronk never completed high school, and left home for Greenwich Village, a few miles away, in his late teens. He took his inspiration from blues and folk singer Odetta, who encouraged the then merchant seaman to play the classic jazz music that he was so keenly interested in. Often regarded as the grand uncle of the Greenwich Village coffeehouse scene, the self-effacing Van Ronk, an engaging intellectual and voracious reader, would have been the first to tell you that there were others, like Odetta, who were around the Village before him. As the blues and folk boom bloomed into the '60s, Van Ronk became part of an inner circle of musicians who lived in the Village, including then up-and-coming performers like Dylan, Paxton, Phil Ochs, Ramblin' Jack Elliot, and Joni Mitchell. An expert fingerpicker, Van Ronk was influenced as a vocalist by Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong.

Van Ronk's recording career began in 1959 with Sings Ballads, Blues & a Spiritual on Moses Asch's Folkways label. His reputation wasn't solid, however, until he began recording for the Prestige label in the first half of the '60s. These recordings allowed him to tour throughout the U.S. and perform at major folk festivals like Newport. Although he had a short-lived folk rock band called the Hudson Dusters in the mid-'60s, the bulk of Van Ronk's recordings were solo acoustic affairs. Van Ronk's various recordings serve different purposes; to check out Van Ronk the songwriter, pick up Going Back to Brooklyn (Gazell Productions, 1985), which was his first all-original album, containing only his own songs; for students of Van Ronk's complex guitar technique, pick up Dave Van Ronk, a compact disc reissue of two earlier Prestige albums, Dave Van Ronk, Folksinger and Inside Dave Van Ronk. Another compilation, The Folkways Years (1959-1961), is available from Smithsonian Folkways. His 1967 album for Verve Forecast, Dave Van Ronk and the Hudson Dusters, is worthy of reissue on compact disc for its sound quality and for the statements it makes about American society in the '60s.

Van Ronk continued to record throughout the '90s and beyond, with the Alcazar Records label releasing From...Another Time and Place in 1995 and Justin Time issuing Sweet and Lowdown in 2001. He died unexpectedly while undergoing post-operative treatment for colon cancer on February 10, 2002. A CD of his last concert, from October 2001 in Takoma Park, Maryland, was released by Smithsonian Folkways in 2004 as ...And the Tin Pan Bended and the Story Ended. ~ Richard Skelly
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Down In Washington Square: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection

Disc 1

1. Duncan And Brady

2. River Come Down (Bamboo)

3. Spike Driver Blues

4. John Henry

5. Backwater Blues

6. K.C. Moan

7. Haul On The Bowline

8. Just A Closer Walk With Thee

9. Gambler's Blues

10. Sweet Substitute

11. Bed Bug Blues

12. Winin' Boy

13. Georgie And The Irt

14. Betty And Dupree

15. Come Back Baby

16. My Baby's So Sweet

17. Black Mountain Blues

18. Yas-Yas-Yas

Disc 2

1. Willie The Weeper

2. Dink's Song

3. Santy Anno

4. Leave Her, Johnny

5. Tell Old Bill

6. Careless Love

7. Standing By My Window

8. Please See My Grave Is Kept Clean

9. Had More Money

10. If You Leave Me, Pretty Mama

11. Hesitation Blues

12. In The Pines

13. Oh, What A Beautiful City

14. Mean Old Frisco

15. Stackalee

16. How Long

17. Ain't No Grave Can Hold My Body Down

18. House Of The Rising Sun

Disc 3

1. Hootchie Kootchie Man

2. Reckless Blues

3. Trouble In Mind

4. Oh Lord, Search My Heart

5. God Bless The Child

6. Losers

7. Another Time And Place

8. Garden State Stomp

9. Motherless Children

10. Don't You Leave Me Here (I'm Alabama Bound)

11. Spike Driver Blues

12. Down South Blues

13. St. James Infirmary (Gambler's Blues)

14. Ace In The Hole

15. Going Down Slow

16. Buckets Of Rain

17. Jelly Jelly

18. Sometime (Whatcha Gonna Do)

x

Track List: Dave Van Ronk Sings

1. Bed Bug Blues

2. Yas-Yas-Yas

3. Please See That My Grave Is Kept Clean

4. Tell Old Bill

5. Georgie And The Irt

6. Hesitation Blues

7. Hootchy Kootchy Man

8. Sweet Substitute

9. Dink's Song

10. River Come Down

11. Just A Closer Walk With Thee

12. Come Back Baby

13. Spike Driver's Moan

14. Standing By My Window

15. Willie The Weeper

x

Track List: The Mayor Of MacDougal Street

1. New Orleans Hop Scop Blues

2. On Top Of Old Smokey

3. All My Trials

4. Buddy Bolden's Blues

5. The Butcher Boy

6. Salty Dog

7. Two Trains Running (Live)

8. Way Down In Lubyanka Prison

9. Willie The Weeper (Live)

10. Shaving Cream

11. The Cruel Ship's Captain

12. As You Make Your Bed

13. Bird On The Wire (Live)

14. Both Sides Now

15. In Conditional Support Of Beauty

16. W.C. Fields Routine

17. Romping Through The Swamp (Live)

x

Track List: ...And The Tin Pan Bended And The Story Ended...

1. Down South Blues (Live)

2. Dave speaks

3. You've Been A Good Old Wagon

4. Dave speaks

5. Don't You Leave Me Here

6. Dave Speaks

7. Did You Hear John Hurt? (Live)

8. Dave speaks

9. Green, Green Rocky Road (Live)

10. Dave speaks

11. Jelly Jelly

12. Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out (Live)

13. Dave speaks

14. One Meatball

15. Buckets of Rain

16. Dave speaks

17. Sometime (Whatcha Gonna Do) (Live)

18. Sportin' Life Blues

19. Dave speaks

20. Ace in the Hole

21. Dave speaks

22. St. James Infirmary

23. Thank You

24. Urge For Going

x

Track List: Sweet & Lowdown

1. I'll See You In My Dreams

2. Comes Love

3. Zoot Suit

4. As Time Goes By

5. Some Of These Days

6. Thanks For The Memory

7. Puttin' On The Ritz

8. Blues In The News

9. I'd Rather Charleston

10. I Can't Get Started

11. Sweet And Lowdown

12. I Wonder Where Our Love Has Gone

13. Your Feet's Too Big

14. Bye Bye Blackbird

15. A Cottage For Sale

x

Track List: Going Back To Brooklyn

1. Losers

2. Blood Red Moon

3. Honey Hair

4. Head Inspector

5. Luang Prabang

6. Antelope Rag

7. Tantric Mantra

8. Gaslight Rag

9. Last Call

10. Garden State Stomp

11. Zen Koans Gonna Rise Again

12. The Whores Of San Pedro

13. Left Bank Blues

14. Another Time And Place

x

Track List: The Folkways Years, 1959-1961

1. Duncan And Brady

2. Hesitation Blues

3. In The Pines

4. Willie The Weaper

5. Oh, What A Beautiful City (Twelve Gates To The City)

6. River Come Down

7. Careless Love

8. Betty And Dupree

9. Bed Bug Blues

10. Leave Her Johnny, Leave Her

11. Yas, Yas, Yas

12. Please See That My Grave Is Kept Clean

13. Winin' Boy

14. Just A Closer Walk With Thee

15. Gambler's Blues

16. Spike Driver's Moan

17. Georgie On The Irt

18. Come Back Baby

19. Black Mountain Blues

20. My Baby's So Sweet

x

Track List: Sunday Street

1. Sunday Street

2. Jesus Met The Woman At The Well

3. Nobody Knows The Way I Feel This Morning

4. Maple Leaf Rag

5. Down South Blues

6. Jivin' Man Blues

7. The Song About The Midway

8. The Pearls

9. That'll Never Happen To Me

10. Mamie's Blues

11. Would You Like To Swing On A Star?

x

Track List: Inside Dave Van Ronk

1. Samson & Delilah

2. Cocaine Blues

3. You've Been A Good Old Wagon

4. Fixin' To Die

5. Hang Me, Oh Hang Me

6. Long John

7. Chicken Is Nice

8. He Was A Friend Of Mine

9. Motherless Child

10. Stackerlee

11. Mr. Noah

12. Come Back Baby

13. Poor Lazarus

14. House Carpenter

15. The Cruel Ship's Captain

16. Sprig Of Thyme

17. Talking Cancer Blues

18. I Buyed Me A Little Dog

19. Lady Gay

20. Fair & Tender Ladies

22. Shanty Man's Life

23. Silver Dagger

24. Kentucky Moonshiner

25. He Never Came Back

x

Track List: Ballads, Blues, And A Spiritual

1. Duncan And Brady

2. Black Mountain Blues

3. In The Pines

4. My Baby's So Sweet

5. Oh, What A Beautiful City (Twelve Gates To The City)

6. Winin' Boy

7. If You Leave Me Pretty Momma

8. Backwater Blues

9. Careless Love

10. Betty And Dupree

11. K.C. Moan

12. Gambler's Blues

13. John Henry

14. How Long

x

Track List: Live At Sir George William University

1. Gambler's Blues (Live)

2. That Will Never Happen No More (Live)

3. The Old Man (Live)

4. St. Louis Tickle (Live)

5. Frankie And Albert (Live)

6. Down And Out (Live)

7. W.C. Fields Routine (Live)

8. Mack The Knife (Live)

9. Songs Of The Wandering Angus (Live)

10. Mean World Blues (Live)

11. Keep It Clean (Live)

12. Statesboro Blues (Live)

13. Cocaine (Live)

Comments

Report as inappropriate
Re "Hang Me" - absolutely riveting!!
Report as inappropriate
I've changed my mind. This is not wonderful; honest it may be, but .... not honorable.
Report as inappropriate
Ya wanna B A F**king Hero
Report as inappropriate
Something really humorous about Dave van Ronk, the ultimate New York City guy, singing sea chanteys like Leave Her, Johnny.' I guess it's a measure of his ability that he can actually pull it off, but it still make me laugh to think of him hoisting a sail.
Report as inappropriate
Wonderful!
Report as inappropriate
This was the album in the movie Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) Fresh Aire's Terry Gross asked the Coens if their inspiration for having a cat in the movie came from Von Ronk's album, and they said that not only was it NOT, but also that they hadn't even noticed the cat on the Van Ronk album cover until they'd completed shooting. HA! What a twist!
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If you like Dave Van Ronk you got to read The Mayor of MacDougal Street !!!!!
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thanks tony penn cdbaby.com
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I know this is difficult to play, masterful performance!
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Dave's version of Clouds - Both Sides Now - the best.
Report as inappropriate
intullivisio n 2
Blue Monday I hate Blue Monday Got ta work like a slave all day... check it out on the album Just Dave Van Ronk. He didn't write it but once you hear it he owns it!
I met Dave in the mid 90's in San Francisco. Great, Graet Man!
Report as inappropriate
why have i never heard this guy before!!!
Report as inappropriate
rwell
met dave in memphis, less than two years before his passing, he ani drove down highway 61 to the crossroads, what a great trip. thanks again dave, you were also a gentleman of the first order.
Report as inappropriate
Old Man Van Ronk...it's been a long time.
Report as inappropriate
what about the Hudson Dusters?
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Nice 'ragged thythm' on Maple Leaf Rag. It ain't E. Power Biggs on the pedal harpsichord playing Joplin - but it ain't bad!
Report as inappropriate
Supposedly "Positively 4th Street" was about Dave."You've got a lot of nerve to say you are my friend..."
Report as inappropriate
I miss Dave. Hope he's having fun, where ever he is (they better serve burbon).
Report as inappropriate
Oh, yes. Chicken Is Nice is one of my all time favorite songs. Don't much care for the lot that starts with House Carpenter.

Report as inappropriate
i am reading the Bob Dylan autobiograph y Chronicles. so naturally Van Ronk's name come up.
Report as inappropriate
thanx dave....
Report as inappropriate
Yas, yas, yas
Report as inappropriate
Absolutely wonderful.

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