izzy young better

“Izzy Young ‘Talking Folklore Center’”

The Man Who Discovered Bob Dylan

Amos Lassen

Izzy Young was the guru of American folk music. In this documentary about his legendary Folklore Center in New York, Izzy meets with friends and collaborators like Pete Seeger, Allen Ginsberg, The Fugs and Mayor Ed Koch to reminisce. The documentary includes unique archival footage and folk music from the 1960s.

Young was born Israel Goodman Young on the Lower East Side of Manhattan to Polish immigrant parents, Philip and Pola Young. He father was a baker. Izzy grew up in The Bronx where he finished high school and then went on to Brooklyn College. From 1948 to 1952 he worked in his father’s bakery in Brooklyn and later went into the book business.

1957 changed everything. He opened the Folklore Center at 110 MacDougal Street  in New York City’s Greenwich Village and it was, a store for books and records and everything related to folk music. It became a focal point for the American folk music scene of the time, a place where one could find such limited circulation publications.. From 1959 to 1969, Young wrote a column entitled “Fret and Frails” for the folk music journal “Sing Out” and he served on the “editorial advisory board” for the magazine until he moved to Sweden a few years later.

Before that however, Young arranged concerts with folk musicians and songwriters, who often made contacts with other musicians at the Folklore Center. Bob Dylan relates in his memoirs, Chronicles, how he spent time at the Center, where Young allowed him to sit in the backroom of the store, listening to folk music records and reading books. Dylan met Dave Van Ronk in the store, and Young produced Dylan’s first concert at Carnegie Chapter Hall in New York City on Saturday, November 4, 1961. Dylan wrote a song about the store and Young entitled “Talking Folklore Center”.

He is credited with playing a crucial role in the rise of folk music in the 1960s, and with bringing a young Bob Dylan to stardom by arranging his first proper concert, at Carnegie Chapter Hall, in 1961.

“I broke my ass to get people to come,” Young said in a recent interview with “Tablet”. “Only 52 people showed up but about 300 people remember being there. Everyone wants to say they were there. You understand?”

If you love the folk scene as much as I do then this is a film you do not want to miss—it is part of our history.

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