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The Conscience of the Folk Revival

The Writings of Israel "Izzy" Young

Scott Barretta

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.
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Scarecrow Press
Pages: 300Size: 6 3/8 x 9 3/8
978-0-8108-8308-6 • Hardback • December 2012 • $87.00 • (£60.00)
978-0-8108-8309-3 • eBook • December 2012 • $82.00 • (£54.95)
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.
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
Many fine performers and songwriters flourished in the folk music revival of the 1950s-70s. The general public knows about many of them, but even folk devotees may not know about Izzy Young (b. 1928), a seminal figure in the revival. As a labor of love, Young ran the Greenwich Village store Folklore Center from 1957 to 1973. In addition to offering books, records, and instruments for sale, the Folklore Center became a vital hangout for folk musicians Young encouraged and mentored, for example, Bob Dylan. Young branched out to promote folk concerts, have a radio show, and write articles. This book presents, among other material, all his "Frets and Frails" columns, which ran in the journal Sing Out! from 1959 to 1969. Filled with news of folksingers' lives and creative efforts, the columns offer refreshingly outspoken views of the genre and the music business. Also included in the volume are Young's earlier and later writings and interviews. This material should prove very valuable for researchers of the folk revival and popular culture of the time, and should interest serious fans as well. With this book, Young, who has lived in Sweden since 1973, gets well-deserved recognition. Summing Up: Highly recommended.

The Conscience of the Folk Revival: The Writings of Israel “Izzy” Young is the definitive account of [Young’s] folk revival experiences and observations.
Living Blues

The Conscience of the Folk Revival portrays the activities and values of the Folk Revival through the writings of an important figure within it.
Journal of American Folklore

Scott Barretta’s selections gather together a body of little-known published materials. . . .Some content is newsy, freezeframing points in time. Some insights and observations about Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, part-hero-part-bête noir Alan Lomax, Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger and the New Lost City Ramblers might well blow you away. Some targets remain as pertinent today as the day [Izzy Young] delivered them. . . .A romp of a read which will be over too soon. But it won’t be done with you.

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.
Sean Wilentz, author of Bob Dylan in America

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.
Elijah Wald, author of How the Beatles Destroyed Rock N Roll: An Alternative History of American Popular Music