June 30: Dave Van Ronk Birthday

dave van ronk

Van Ronk could howl and whisper, turn blues into ballads and ballads into blues. I loved his style. He was what the city was all about. In Greenwich Village, Van Ronk was king of the street, he reigned supreme.
~Bob Dylan (Chronicles vol.1)

He was gruff, a mass of bristling hair, don’t give a damn attitude, a confident hunter.
~Bob Dylan (Chronicles vol.1)

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.
~Richard Skelly (allmusic.com)

“Green Green Rocky Road” (from the DVD “Dave Van Ronk Memories”)


Born June 30, 1936
Brooklyn, New York
Died February 10, 2002 (aged 65)
Genres Folk, ragtime, blues, country blues
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter
Instruments Guitar
Years active 1959-2002
Labels Folkways

David Kenneth Ritz “Dave” Van Ronk (June 30, 1936 – February 10, 2002) was an American folk singer, born in Brooklyn, New York, who settled in Greenwich Village, New York, and was eventually nicknamed the “Mayor of MacDougal Street”.

He was an important figure in the acoustic folk revival of the 1960s. His work ranged from old English ballads to blues,gospel, rock, New Orleans jazz, and swing. He was also known for performing instrumental ragtime guitar music, especially his transcription of “St. Louis Tickle” and Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag”.

Suze Rotoloe, woman, Bob Dylan & Dave Van Ronk
Suze Rotolo, woman, Bob Dylan & Dave Van Ronk

Van Ronk was a widely admired avuncular figure in “the Village”, presiding over the coffeehouse folk culture and acting as a friend to many up-and-coming artists by inspiring, assisting, and promoting them. Folk performers whom he befriended include Bob Dylan, Tom Paxton, Patrick Sky, Phil Ochs, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Guthrie Thomas, and Joni Mitchell.

Bob Dylan recorded Van Ronk’s arrangement of the traditional song “House of the Rising Sun” on Dylan’s first album. A few years later the Animals had a No. 1 hit single with a rock version of the Van Ronk arrangement of the song, a hit which helped to inaugurate the folk-rock movement.

Van Ronk received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) in December 1997. He died in a New York hospital of cardiopulmonary failure while undergoing postoperative treatment for colon cancer.

“Stackerlee” (from the DVD “Dave Van Ronk Memories”)

Check out:

Album of the day:

Folkways Years (1959-1961)

dave van ronk folkways years


5 thoughts on “June 30: Dave Van Ronk Birthday”

  1. The unidentified woman in the photo with Dylan and Suze Rotolo is Terri Thal, Dave’s wife at the time. She also managed Dave, as well as the Holy Modal Rounders and other folkies of the day.

  2. Dave Van Ronk was, and remains, a powerful musical presence. Completely unique and inimitable. Lots of people look at blues as a too-predictable three-chord form. And then a guy like Dave shows up and changes your life. He was an incredible singer and interpreter who accompanied himself on guitar… then he made himself a legendary guitarist as well. He remained true to his values in all of his music and all of his life. I took guitar lessons with him for a year and it was a great experience for me; the stuff I learned applies to more than just music. Dave’s totem was The Moose, and he really did stand head and shoulders above.

  3. I was privileged to live in the Village when Dave was known to all as the Mayor of MacDougal Street. To know Dave was to love him He was a superb musician, raconteur, philosopher and in fine art of living life to it’s fullest he was a consummate genius. May his legacy live on Here’s a link to a song that I wrote as a tribute to the life he shared so freely with us. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5iD-xTagb0 Happy Birthday Dave!

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