The Mayor of MacDougal Street: A Memoir, By Dave Van Ronk with Elijah Wald

Paperback review

Sat, Jan 18, 2014, 01:00


Book Title:
The Mayor of MacDougal Street: A Memoir


Dave Van Ronk with Elijah Wald

Da Capo Press

Guideline Price:

The Coen brothers’ new film, Inside Llewyn Davis, is loosely (and, according to some who were there, inaccurately) based on this memoir of Greenwich Village in the 1960s, first published in 2005. Dave Van Ronk, a respected folk and blues singer, was one of the founding figures of the folk revival and a mentor to many young hopefuls, including Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. Despite the Dutch surname, his family was “mostly Irish and thoroughly working class”, and Van Ronk was active in civil rights and left-wing politics as well as music. He comes across as a benign curmudgeon with a wry sense of humour and a no-nonsense attitude. He pays due respect to the great Pete Seeger and cites Mitchell as the best writer of the 1960s. Though he fell out with Dylan, he was not bitter about Dylan’s meteoric rise. Van Ronk died before he could finish the book, but his friend Elijah Wald took over, and the result is a clear-eyed, entertaining account of an exhilarating time.