Izzy Young, who midwifed the New York folk revival from the Folklore Center he founded in 1957 in the heart of Greenwich Village, died in his adopted home in Stockholm, Sweden, on February 4 at the age of 90. Young’s accomplishments are the stuff of legend, from producing hundreds of folk concerts (among them Bob Dylan’s first) to organizing the protests over the city’s ill-advised ban on live music in Washington Square Park to penning an incendiary opinion column in Sing Out! magazine and championing emerging folk artists on his WBAI radio show.
My own recollections of Izzy Young largely depend on his writings. Born in 1950, I was a few years late to the birth of the Village folk scene. The Folklore Center had moved from its original MacDougal Street location (Bob Dylan called it a “shoebox sized institute”) to slightly more spacious quarters on Sixth Avenue when I first began buying strings and ogling the old Martins hanging on the brick walls. Izzy was less of a presence in that second location, but I devoured his Sing Out! column, along with everything else in the issue; at age 13, it was the first magazine I ever subscribed to. Along with Pete Seeger’s How to Play the Five-String Banjo, reading Sing Out! brought the legends of traditional music to life for me, forming my early listening habits and helping me connect the music I heard to the people who created it, no matter how unfamiliar and distant their milieu seemed from mine.
I like to think that the spirit of Sing Out! – and the spirit of that Greenwich Village culture – still inspires what we do in the pages of Acoustic Guitar and on this website. Thank you, Izzy Young, for helping to light the spark.