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Israel G. “Izzy” Young was the proprietor of the Folklore Center in Greenwich Village from the late 1950s to the early 1970s. The literal center of the New York folk music scene, the Center not only sold records, books, and guitar strings but served as a concert hall, meeting spot, and information kiosk for all folk scene events. Among Young’s first customers was Harry Belafonte; among his regular visitors were Alan Lomax and Pete Seeger. Shortly after his arrival in New York City in 1961, an unknown Bob Dyan banged away at songs on Young’s typewriter. Young would also stage Dylan’s first concert, as well as shows by Joni Mitchell, the Fugs, Emmylou Harris, and Tim Buckley, Doc Watson, Son House, and Mississippi John Hurt.
The Conscience of the Folk Revival: The Writings of Israel “Izzy” Young collects Young’s writing, from his regular column “Frets and Frails” for Sing Out! Magazine (1959-1969) to his commentaries on such contentious issues as copyright and commercialism. Also including his personal recollections of seminal figures, from Bob Dylan and Alan Lomax to Harry Smith and Woody Guthrie, this collection removes the rose tinting of past memoirs by offering Young’s detailed, day-by-day accounts. A key collection of primary sources on the American countercultural scene in New York City, this work will interest not only folk music fans, but students and scholars of American social and cultural history.
About the Author
Scott Barretta is an instructor of sociology at the University of Mississippi, a writer/researcher for the Mississippi Blues Trail, and the host of the Highway 61 radio show on Mississippi Public Broadcasting. He is former editor of the magazines Jefferson (Swedish) and Living Blues and has written for magazines such as MOJO, Oxford American, and SingOut!
Israel Goodman “Izzy” Young, born in Manhattan in 1928, opened the Folklore Center in Greenwich Village in 1957, which sold books, music, and instruments, and served as the unofficial epicenter of the emerging folk music scene. Both on his own and as a founding member of the Friends of Old Time Music, Young staged hundreds of concerts, including most famously Bob Dylan’s first. From 1959 to 1969 Young chronicled the folk revival through his “Frets to Frails” column in Sing Out!, where he both documented day-to-day events and also addressed contentious issues including commercialism and copyright. In 1973 Young moved to Stockholm, where he founded the Folklore Centrum.
Table of Contents
Series Editor’s Foreword
Foreword by Izzy Young
Guest Foreword by Steve Earle
Introduction by Scott Barretta
Part I: Early Writings
“A New Secret History of Folklore” (1957)
“Predictions of the Folklore Center” (1959)
“A Modest Plea” (1959)
“Folk Music Guide
• USA” (1959/1960)
Excerpts from Izzy Young’s Notebooks (1960)
Part II: “Frets and Frails,” 1959–1969
Part III: Other Writings and Interviews
“Folk Music Was Bigger Than the Bronx: A Dialogue with Israel Young” (1966)
“The Folklore Center’s Gripe about MacDougal Street” (1966)
“Israel Young…. The Music Belongs to the People” (1966)
“How the Fifth Peg Came into Existence” (1984)
Part IV: Bob Dylan and Other Folk Icons
The Story Behind Bob Dylan’s First Concert (2008)
Bob Dylan Taunt (1965)
The Missing Singer (1968)
Introduction to Swedish audio book of Chronicles (2004)
Introduction to Dylan manuscripts (Scott Barretta)
Original manuscript of Bob Dylan’s “Go Away You Bomb”
Original manuscripts of Bob Dylan’s “Talking Folklore Center”
Izzy on Woody
A Tribute to Harry Smith
Folk Music and Copyright, Lomax and Leadbelly
Appendix: Program from Bob Dylan’s first concert (facsimile)
About the Contributors
What People are Saying About This
It is impossible to imagine the Greenwich Village folk scene of the 1960s without Izzy Young—in a world of quirky, talented characters, he provided a forum that was superlatively quirky and nurtured the greatest talents. I got much of my early education by roaming through the writings collected here, alternately thrilled and exasperated, but always envious because he was at the center of it all.
Izzy Young, pioneer, guiding spirit, and legendary force of nature, makes musical things happen. He saw a lot and heard everything from his Folklore Center perch during the MacDougal Street ’60s, and he wrote it all down. This inspired collection, history composed as it happened, tells it like it was, with Izzy’s keen intelligence and his hearty generous soul.