Izzy Young, a businessman, political activist and founding patron of the Greenwich Village folk music scene who organized Bob Dylan’s first major New York concert and devoted decades to supporting other musicians, died Feb. 4 at his home in Stockholm. He was 90.
His daughter, Philomène Grandin, confirmed the death but did not give a precise cause.
Starting in the 1950s, the neighborhood of Greenwich Village was the center of a folk music revival that helped launch the careers of Dylan, Joni Mitchell and many others. Mr. Young, as much as anyone, made the revival possible.
In 1957, he opened the Folklore Center, a vital stopping point where fans and folk performers would stop by for everything from old sheet music to obscure music books. In a memoir, “Chronicles,” Dylan described it as “the citadel of Americana folk music.”
“It was like an ancient chapel,” he added, “like a shoebox sized institute.”
In 1960, Mr. Young had another inspiration — to expand folk music beyond coffee houses and bring it to a restaurant, an Italian place called Gerde’s.
When Dylan moved from Minnesota to New York in the winter of 1961, Gerde’s was an early stop. He played his first professional gig there, in April; five months later, his performance at the restaurant was attended by the New York Times’s Robert Shelton, whose review established Dylan as a rising star and brought him his first record deal.
Mr. Young organized Dylan’s first major show outside of Greenwich Village, a November 1961 performance at Carnegie Chapter Hall, a small venue connected to the venerable Carnegie Hall.
Mr. Young also gave early breaks to other top folk and folk-rock performers, including Mitchell, John Sebastian of the Lovin’ Spoonful, and Peter, Paul and Mary. He wrote a column for the folk music publication Sing Out! and helped organize a 1961 protest — known and misnamed as “the Beatnik Riot” — after Parks Commissioner Newbold Morris stopped issuing permits for folk musicians in Washington Square Park.
The demonstration began as a peaceful gathering but ended with police harassing protesters, shoving some to the ground, and carting off others. The city soon resumed allowing folkies in the park.
A film of the event showed Mr. Young telling police that it was not up to “Commissioner Morris to tell the people what kind of music is good or bad. He’s telling people folk music brings degenerates, but it’s not so.”
The son of Jewish immigrants from Poland, Israel Goodman Young was born in Manhattan on March 26, 1928. He worked at his father’s bakery in Brooklyn, attended high school in the Bronx and joined the American Square Dance Group, founded by Margaret Mayo, where he developed the idea that “folk music is the heartbeat of a person,” as he once told the Village Voice.
Mr. Young studied at Brooklyn College but did not receive a degree.
In 1973, he turned his store over to Rick Altman and settled in Stockholm, enamored of Swedish music and predicting that the country’s cultural scene could soon surpass that of New York. He opened a new music shop, the Folklore Centrum, which closed in November.
“He had opened his heart to so many people, so many poets who came to his shop,” Grandin told the Associated Press. She spent several months last year cataloguing and packing up Mr. Young’s library of some 2,000 titles, with a view to selling it as one collection.
In addition to his daughter, survivors include a son and three grandchildren.