The first time I saw Dave Van Ronk was in the late 1960s when he opened for Joni Mitchell at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. With all the comotion over Joni, I somehow missed the great musician that played before her.
The next time I saw him was at a gig Jim Ringer and I shared with him in Wilkes-Barre, PA. This time I was listening and was flabbergasted by what I heard. From that night on, I have been one of Dave's biggest fans. And over the years, my husband, Greg, and I have become close friends with Dave and his wonderful wife Andrea. This is in spite of the fact that we seldom get to see them.
Dave's guitar playing is simply spectacular in its clarity, strength and beauty. He is one of the most expressive finger-pickers I've ever heard, yet at no time does he overplay. His wonderful gravelly voice is great whether he is singing a 1930s jazz piece, a rendition of a Dylan classic, his own lovely song, "Another Time and Place", or "I'm Proud to Be a Moose", which was written for Mr. Moose to sing on Captain Kangaroo, but was not used because Mr. Moose didn't talk much less sing. * Read 12/05 update below
You can hear Dave's influence in the music of other folk greats, such as Hoyt Axton and he has taught a generation of budding guitarists how to play with confidence and creativity.
Dave has long been established in the pantheon of folk music royalty and is a world class crumudgeon, with a heart of gold. He is also one of the funniest people I have ever met in my entire life.
Greg and I send him and Andrea our love and very best wishes.
Santa Cruz, California
Notes to Dave Van Ronk on the occasion of his receiving an ASCAP Lifetime Achievement Award, December 10, 1997 (Thanks to Christine Lavin!)
Greetings from Santa Cruz, California:
It is altogether fitting and proper that
such a unique and influencial artist as Dave Van Ronk should receive
this award. Dave has a truly spectacular touch on the guitar. His
playing is so clear and soulful and his arrangements never cease to
leave me in awe. Then there is his songwriting! It's hard to think of
two more cleverly written songs than Dave's "Losers" and "Garden
State Stomp." In spite of his lengthy tenure as a performer, Dave has
never rested on his (or anyone else's) laurels. He is continually
learning and arranging new songs and knocking us all out along the
way. Congratulations Dave!
I enjoyed looking at your site, but there's an error concerning my song "I'm Proud to Be a Moose" I feel I should point out. Perhaps you got your information from another Dave Van Ronk website which had the same incorrect information. I'm forwarding you the e mail I sent to them which I hope will clear this up.
I am the songwriter of "I"m Proud to Be a Moose". Your comment on your website "it didn't make the cut" is incorrect. The song was broadcast on the show 13 times. You are right Mr.Moose did not sing (which I didn't know when I wrote the song), but he did speak. The song was recorded at Electric Ladyland Studios on 8th Street in New York City. After the rhythm tracks were finished (with Eric Weissberg on banjo), Vic Thomas, the producer of the sessions, called me in to sing a guide vocal so that Mr. Moose could get the phrasing right.The song originally had only two verses. When I played the song for Dave in his living room, he told me right away that he wanted to record the song, but that he wanted me to write another verse. I tried to talk him out of it, but he was adamant, so I did. ("Never had a care to be hare...").
When Dave played the song onstage, he was kind enough to always mention my name. We performed it together once-at the Turning Point in Piermont,NY when I was opening for him. My own version of it, recorded at a Fast Folk show at the Bottom Line with Jeff Hardy on Bass and Howie Wyeth on drums, is on my cd "Almost Home", which is available on my website: willienininger.com. There is also a bootleg version of it out there somewhere from the memorial/fundraiser show held for Dave last year, also at the Bottom Line.
I hope this sets the record (no pun intended) straight.