The new Coen Brothers movie Inside Llewyn Davis follows the fictional Llewyn Davis as he tries to find success in the early 60s New York folk scene. Davis is loosely based on the legendary Dave Van Ronk, the Brooklyn-born folk singer who was one of the early leaders of the famous music era. Ronk might not be as well known as he is critically acclaimed, but his music career is rooted in the same folk tradition of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, and he was a mentor and friend to many young musicians, including a young kid from Hibbing, Minnesota who came to New York knowing no one and who would find guidance from Ronk.
Ronk was nicknamed “The Mayor of MacDougal Street”, the street within Greenwich Village that was home to all the coffee houses where most of the folk music was being rediscovered by a new generation. He was a highly respected spokesman of the scene who knew and shared nearly every folk standard that was being played, and even today he is still consider one of the most important musicians of folk music.
Bob Dylan describe Ronk in his Chronicles like so:
“I’d heard Van Ronk back in the Midwest on records and thought he was pretty great, copied some of his recordings phrase for phrase. […] 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.”
Very kind words from the man who usually gets most of the credit for the 60s folk revival, a revival that many argued was furthered thanks to Dave Van Ronk.
And here’s the trailer for Inside Llewyn Davis.