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 Dylanmoved 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 orTom Paxton. Instead, Van Ronk's genius was derived from his flawless execution and rearranging of classic acoustic blues tunes.
Born June 30, 1936, in Brooklyn and raised there, Van Ronk never completed high school, and left home for Greenwich Village, a few miles away, in his late teens. He took his inspiration from blues and folk singer Odetta, who encouraged the then merchant seaman to play the classic jazz music that he was so keenly interested in. Often regarded as the grand uncle of the Greenwich Village coffeehouse scene, the self-effacing Van Ronk, an engaging intellectual and voracious reader, would have been the first to tell you that there were others, like Odetta, who were around the Village before him. As the blues and folk boom bloomed into the '60s, Van Ronk became part of an inner circle of musicians who lived in the Village, including then up-and-coming performers like Dylan, Paxton, Phil Ochs, Ramblin' Jack Elliot, and Joni Mitchell. An expert fingerpicker, Van Ronk was influenced as a vocalist by Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong.
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