Saturday, June 25, 2011

Coen Brothers to do film about Dave Van Ronk?

According to this Los Angeles Times blog, the Coen BrothersJoel and Ethan – are working on a film script loosely based on the life of Dave Van Ronk

(Thanks to Mary Katherine Aldin for the blog link.)

According to the report, Dave’s posthumous book, The Mayor of MacDougal Street, written with Elijah Wald, is being used by the Coen Brothers as source material. That’s pretty cool. The last time Dave was in Montreal – in 1998 to perform at the jazz festival – he did a long interview with me on the Folk Roots/Folk Branches radio show that was one of the many sources Elijah drew on when putting the book together.

I first met Dave sometime around 1970 when he played at the short-lived Back Door Coffee House in Montreal. He was gracious then in answering all the questions that the teenaged me could throw at him. He also pointed me in some interesting directions in music to listen to.

Our friendship actually developed later in the mid-to-late-1970s when I was spending a few days at a time a couple of times per year in New York City and got to hang out with Dave in the Village and spend a few late nights and early mornings getting an education at the University-of-Dave Van Ronk’s Couch. Have a listen to Tom Russell’s piece, “Van Ronk,” on Hotwalker or The Tom Russell Anthology: Veterans Day, for an appreciation of what it meant to spend a night on Dave’s couch.

In the 1980s, Dave came up to Montreal several times to play at the Golem, the folk club I was running, and he would stay at the little apartment I had on Kensington Avenue. We’d sit up there too, arguing politics, and talking about music, and listening to music. Once, he made me play a particular solo from a Lester Young LP that I had over and over again.

Time spent with Dave Van Ronk taught me how to really listen to music. I mean really listen to music. (I should also say I learned a lot in that regard from David Amram and Rosalie Sorrels.)

The Mayor of MacDougal Street remains one of the best books I’ve read about the 1960s folk scene (and I’ve read a lot of them). And Dave’s many albums remain essential listening for me.

He was a friend of mine.

--Mike Regenstreif

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