SONG OF THE DAY Dave Van Ronk – Poor Lazarus

Who told him he could sing!!“…these were the words my Mum exclaimed when I tried to share the delights of Dave Van Ronk with her recently!  I even tried guiding her through his great version of the House of the Rising Sun  explaining the significance of Van Ronk’s rendition and how Bob Dylan had recorded (and shamelessly copied) Ronk’s version for his 1961 debut album…but to no avail!  Going slightly off on a tangent (but this is rather interesting), the story behind The House of the Rising Sun recalls how Dylan approached Dave to ask if he could record his version of the song his first LP.  Dave Van Ronk refused and replied, “I’d rather you not, I’m planning on recording it soon myself.”  Dylan merely said “uh oh,” recorded it anyway (another strike against the very overrated Dylan!!) and subsequently Van Ronk had to stop performing it because everyone accused him of getting it from Dylan!!!!  However, Dylan himself had to stop playing it when the Animals made a top hit out of it, and people accused him of getting it from them…HA!

Going back to today’s song, a passionate and fantastic song entitled Poor Lazarus, which originally featured on Dave Van Ronk’s 1962 4th studio album Folksinger.  Raw, burdened and laden with the tragic tale of Lazarus, the song details his demise as he is pursued by a deputy who, on fierce instructions from the sheriff, is told to fetch him “dead or alive/great god, dead or alive!”  When they track him down “between two mountains” they “blowed him down” and without even a thought for his potential innocence “they killed the poor Lazarus/with a mighty number/a number 45”

Dave Van Ronk delivers this song with such conviction, the composition is scant and stripped-back, relying only on hard, organic vocals and the pained strums of an acoustic guitar, but there is no need for anything else for the power lies within its purity and expression…I love this song!!!…and would you believe it, Dylan covered Poor Lazarus too, after Dave Van Ronk, but it doesn’t even come remotely close to Ronk’s version..I challenge you to tell me different!

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