Izzy Young, 85, is a legend in folk music circles—both in America and Sweden. He is the former owner of the Folklore Center in Greenwich Village, New York, and since 1973, he has owned and operated the Folklore Centrum store in Stockholm.
In 1957, on MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village, he opened the Folklore Center, a store for books and records and everything related to folk music. It became a major hangout for folk musicians, including a very young Bob Dylan.
From 1959 to 1969, Young wrote a column entitled "Fret and Frails" for the folk music journal Sing Out. He served on the "editorial advisory board" for the magazine until his departure for Sweden a few years later.
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 1961. Dylan wrote a song about the store and Young, "Talking Folklore Center."
After developing an interest in Swedish folk music at a festival, Young closed his New York store, and in 1973, he moved to Stockholm where he opened the Folklore Centrum.
Young is visiting New York City, where he is doing a documentary with Bob Porco, grandson of Gerde’s Folk City owner Mike Porco. Young was instrumental in the founding of Gerdes.
I talked with Young during a break in filming for the documentary. I wanted to know how to differentiate folk music from other forms of music. It was a hot button question for Young. At first he didn’t want to answer it, but then got going. I’ll leave it to you to figure out what he said.
(It was very windy in the park when we interviewed Izzy. The audio has some wind noise. We're sorry about that.)