Folk singer Dave Van Ronk, who had been undergoing treatment for colon cancer, died yesterday (Feb. 10) at New York University Medical Center. He was 65. Van Ronk, who was a friend and influence on a
Folk singer Dave Van Ronk, who had been undergoing treatment for colon cancer, died yesterday (Feb. 10) at New York University Medical Center. He was 65. Van Ronk, who was a friend and influence on a young Bob Dylan, released more than 25 albums in his 40-plus year career. His most recent album was "Sweet and Lowdown," which explored his love of jazz standards and was released last June on Canada's Justin Time label.
"I have a long history with jazz," Van Ronk said in the album's liner notes." "When I first began performing in public, somewhere around 1953 or 1954, and it was discovered that my voice could be heard over six or seven instruments, my fate was sealed."
Born in 1936 in New York, Van Ronk moved to the city's Greenwich Village neighborhood while in his teens. His first album, "Ballads, Blues and a Spiritual" was released in 1957 on the legendary Folkways label. His 1995 set "From... Another Time and Place" (Alcazar) was nominated for a best traditional folk album Grammy.
As a fixture of the Greenwich Village folk scene, the finger-picking guitarist nurtured the careers of such performers as Dylan, Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs, Ramblin' Jack Elliot, and Joni Mitchell, among others. He is revered by another generation of folk artists that includes Christine Lavin, Janis Ian, and Suzanne Vega.
In 2000, Van Ronk was interviewed for an episode of cable channel A&E's "Biography" series that focused on Dylan. He also appeared in last year's "The Ballad of Ramblin' Jack," a documentary about his friend and fellow folk artist Jack Elliot.
Van Ronk became seriously ill just a few months ago, and underwent surgery in November following his diagnosis with colon cancer. The time off the road left him with little income from live performances and CD sales, prompting one dedicated fan Web site to plead for donations to help the artist with expenses. He was in the midst of treatment for his cancer "when his cardio-pulmonary system failed," according to his management company, Folklore Productions.
Van Ronk is survived by his wife, Andrea Vuocolo. Memorial services are pending.