Dave Van Ronk, the Mayor of MacDougal Street

Dave Van Ronk

Dave Van Ronk, often referred to as the “Mayor of MacDougal Street,” was an iconic figure in the 1960s folk music scene in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Known for his raspy, gravelly voice and masterful guitar playing, Van Ronk played a pivotal role in the revitalization and popularization of traditional and folk music during this time.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Dave Van Ronk moved to Greenwich Village in his late teens where he began his career playing in coffeehouses and small venues along MacDougal Street. His unique blend of blues, jazz, and folk music quickly garnered him a following. He was not only a performer but also a mentor to many emerging artists. His home became a hub for young musicians looking for guidance and inspiration, earning him the affectionate nickname, “Mayor of MacDougal Street.”

Dave Van Ronk’s influence on the folk music scene extended beyond his own performances. He was instrumental in promoting the careers of many young musicians who would go on to achieve significant success. His mentorship and support of a young Bob Dylan is perhaps one of his most well-known contributions to the music industry.

Despite his death on this day on February 10, 2002, Van Ronk’s impact on the folk music scene to this day is undeniable. His passion for traditional music, coupled with his raw talent and commitment to fostering new talent, cemented his legacy as an influential figure in American music history. Dave Van Ronk, the Mayor of MacDougal Street, will always be remembered as a pivotal player in nurturing Greenwich Village’s vibrant folk music scene.

Van Ronk could howl and whisper, turn blues into ballads and ballads into blues. I loved his style. He was what the city was all about. In Greenwich Village, Van Ronk was king of the street, he reigned supreme.
Bob Dylan

Curated by Jennifer