Dave Van Ronk is refreshing, even 50 years later. I only feature two songs in a post, but if you have time also check out Stackerlee, (also known as Stagolee and Stagger Lee), the classic blues about the death of Billy Lyons. Van Ronk’s autobiography reportedly was heavily borrowed upon by the Coen Brother’s for the moving “Inside Llewyn Davis.” Hopefully Van Ronk wasn’t as depressing as the film.
The Richmond Hill (Queens, NY) Historical Society has a nice profile of Van Ronk:
Dave Van Ronk was a regular in Greenwich Village throughout the 1960’s and a regular at the Newport Folk Festival as well. His primary notoriety to the mainstream these days is due mainly to his connection to Bob Dylan, but amongst musicians and folk listeners, he is a legend, and deservedly so. It was clear not only in his musical presentation, but in his between-song commentaries, that Van Ronk approached the often obscure, Black composers of the songs he sang with a love and respect that borders on reverence. His often humorous, often poignant personal recollections
This site — I am unsure of the name — has an impressive discography.
This comment from Wikipedia appears to do a good job of summing up Van Ronk:
Robert Shelton described Van Ronk as, “the musical mayor of MacDougal Street, a tall, garrulous hairy man of three quarters, or, more accurately, three fifths Irish descent. Topped by light brownish hair and a leonine beard, which he smoothed down several times a minute, he resembled an unmade bed strewn with books, record jackets, pipes, empty whiskey bottles, lines from obscure poets, finger picks, and broken guitar strings. He was Bob [Dylan]’s first New York guru. Van Ronk was a walking museum of the blues. Through an early interest in jazz, he had gravitated toward black music – its jazz pole, its jug-band and ragtime center, its blues bedrock… his manner was rough and testy, disguising a warm, sensitive core. Van Ronk retold the blues intimately… for a time, his most dedicated follower was Dylan.”
Above is “Sunday Street” and below is “Green Green Rocky Road,” which the unique Dave Van Ronk introduces with the story of how the song came into being.