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If you like folk music of the mid- to late 20th century, you'll probably enjoy this memoir, an insider's perspective of the folk music scene, mostly around Greenwich Village. Mention Dave Van Ronk to someone today and you are likely to get a blank stare. Van Ronk never was a superstar but was well known, especially among other folk singers. The narrative is first person, but this is more like an autobiography of his professional life than his personal life. For example, we learn that he was married twice, but you learn little more about his wives than their names. Wald has done a brilliant job editing the material left by Dave Van Ronk. In an epilogue by Wald, you can tell this was a labor of love.
Although the book was the inspiration for the Coen Brothers film "Inside Llewyn Davis," van Ronk differed in important ways from the character in the film. For example, Dave's first love was jazz, and he never abandoned it. Although he hitched a ride to Chicago and back once in hopes of playing at The Gate of Horn, there was never involved a jazz musician resembling Roland Turner nor the Kerouac-like driver/beat poet Johnny Five.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
Honestly, I didn't know who Dave Van Ronk was until I listened to this book. I got this book because I was interested in learning about the 1960's music scene in Greenwich Village. The book taught me much more than what I had expected. Dave Van Ronk is hilarious and honest in his depictions of the period. I was fascinated by the period, disillusioned a little bit but overall really enjoyed the journey through his experience. I always thought Bob Dylan was an elusive character, but Van Ronk's description of him perfectly explained why this was the case. Greenwich Village in the late '50s and early '60s was such a unique place/time - so many of the musicians who flocked in the area influenced each other. Sure, Dylan had a talent, but he would never have emerged as he did without the unique window of space/time described in this book. I also learned what it was like to be a musician trying to be himself. Thank you, Dave Van Ronk. Thank you, Elijah Wald. I recently passed through the neighborhood and felt so sad that many of the cafes/bars described in the book were gone and replaced by chain pharmacies and banks...
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
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Conversational style, van ronk has a refreshing philosophical stance on his past even things others may be bitter about. He is able to laugh at himself while also puttImg his point of view across. His development as a musician is fascinating as are the stories about Dylan, Phil Ochs, Rev Gary Davis and Mississippi John hurt. Well narrated and for fans of inside llewyn Davis it is interesting to see what the Coens pulled from it.