Dave van Ronk
Dave's music has created a special bond between me and Teo, my four year old grandson. I drive him home from preschool, about a half hour drive, three times a week. We always listen to music while driving-when he was younger, nursery rhymes, now children's songs and van Ronk. Teo's favorites are Candyman and Teddy Bears' Picnic, but he is also very fond of Maple Leaf Rag, Just a Closer Walk With Thee, and Would You Like to Swing on a Star. We sing-well, shout-the songs together, creating a warm, happy, close, special time between us.
Other van Ronk cuts that evoke powerful emotions in me, that I don't share with Teo yet, are He Was a Friend of Mine, The Entertainer and Did You Hear John Hurt, a love song from a large, gruff, loud, white middle class man from The Village to a small, mellow, quiet, poor man from rural Mississippi. My heart races every time I hear that cut.
Van Ronk assembled dozens of folk songs from every corner of the world, infused with humor, anger, pathos, tenderness-even in his instrumentals. His virtuoso guitar is so complex and melodious that you'd swear two guitars are playing, not one. His range from blues to jazz to folk is rare. When I listen to some of his songs, I get a sense of his person, of his human beingness that I seldom get with other performers.
Although a strong leftist, he sang about basic human emotions-not, as he could well have done had he wanted to maximize dollars and fame in the '60s-politics.
Dave, 65 is too soon. What beauty you could have brought to the world with just ten more years.
(It would not be kosher if I didn't cop to a weakness that Dave would have scorned: Some nights don't think he can hear me, I listen to Cocaine Blues)