Friday, February 14, 2014

"The Mayor of MacDougal Street" by Dave Van Ronk with Elijah Wald

At this time and point in my life I really don't have an ear for traditional folk music, but nevertheless, and even more important to me,  is the cast of characters that were part of the Greenwich Village scene in the late 1950's and early 1960's.  Oddly enough I wanted to read this book because last December I was walking around the village and thinking there must be a good memoir or book on this area.  I found it and its "The Mayor Of MacDougal Street," a memoir by Dave Van Ronk, with some help from Elijah Wald.

The beauty of this book is Van Ronk's attitude and stance regarding the era and the place.   He seemed to be a man of great taste and pleasure, and I would for one would have loved to have either seen him in concert, or be one of those people who were invited to his pad to hear music and talk literature.  Well, I wasn't, so this book comes in handy with respect to this guy as an observer at a time that was very interesting.   Van Ronk is very fair-minded, and he does not appear to have any regrets or jealousies regarding his career or someone say like Bob Dylan.  In fact, his writing on Dylan is superb.  He has that clear-eye subjective view point in regards to people like Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Phil Ochs.   He knows their music, and his critical commentary on their careers and art is really fascinating.   Also Van Ronk captures the flavor of Lower Manhattan, which was the real reason why I picked up on this book.

Also "The Mayor of MacDougal Street " is very focused on a specific time and place.  Van Ronk had a full life, but here he's just focusing on a time that a lot of us heard about, but now reading this book, we can know everything about it as well.
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