The Mayor of MacDougal Street: Dave Van Ronk

The Coen Brothers’ new film, Inside Llewyn Davis was inspired by this book. Only a few incidents from the book are represented in the film and even those that are are greatly changed. I like the 1960s New York in the film but I found it very bleak. This book is very different, whilst Dave didn’t have the financial success of his contemporaries like Dylan and Joni Mitchell he was a successful musician in his own terms. A good jazz/folk/blue guitarist and songwriter, able to make a living playing his songs. The descriptions of late 50s early 60s Greenwich village are interesting, as is the description of the life of a musician at that time, how he earned a living and the people he learned from. The stuff about the reverend Gary Davies are fascinating.I listened to the audio book version as I don’t have a lot of book time at the moment.It was well worth the listen.

You might be wondering why I have added this to a song writing blog. The main reason is that it gives a feel of the mind space that produced some amazing songs. How the people were living and making a living. How they worked as musicians, the coffee house scene and how it changed their writing.  There are also a few more specific things that are interesting. Apparently if Dylan had a great line he wouldn’t worry too much if some of the rest of the song wasn’t as strong. He didn’t rework much, he just wrote another song.

Tom Paxton wrote a song a day for over a year in order to get really good at writing songs.
The singers at the time worked very long hours to make a living so a lot of what may seem moments of inspiration are more the result of spending a long time singing and playing. There is a parallel to the Beatles early years. Just keep at it till you get good.

Best Bit: Realising how much the 60s singers “borrowed” from what had gone before.  Blues songs, folk songs anything that would serve as a source of inspiration.


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