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At 91, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott Still Desires to Tell You a Story


The pair grew close once they were neighbors within the Hotel Earle in Greenwich Village, where they bonded over a shared love of Guthrie, and other music of the burgeoning folk revival. Since then, fans have accused Dylan of aping Elliott’s style in his early days, particularly his nasally delivery, but that doesn’t hassle the elder. “I helped him get into the musician’s union,” he said. Today, the pair aren’t in regular contact, but once they do cross paths, it’s with an incredible deal of heat. “Love you Jack,” Elliot recalled Dylan saying after a gig in Oakland in 2014. “I believed, ‘Wow, you’ve never told me that before,’” Elliott said.

Unlike Dylan, and plenty of of his other peers, Elliott hasn’t seen much business success — partly because he deals in area of interest genres, but in addition because “he’s not been great at managing his profession, per se,” in accordance with Aiyana. Because he hasn’t written many songs, he receives far fewer royalties on album sales and streams. The majority of his income comes from touring, which has its own risks. Greater than anything, Elliott has sought freedom, and human connection. “He lives quite modestly, a whole lot of people don’t realize just how modestly,” Aiyana said. “But I don’t know that I’ve ever seen someone so wealthy in friends.”

After many years of touring, the nonagenarian is resilient. He’s recovered from triple bypass surgery and two “little strokes” that left him unable to play the guitar for about every week. His hearing is assisted by small aids, but his mobility and stamina befit a much younger man. He moves with swagger in his rigorously chosen outfits.

After a breakfast of oatmeal with berries and chopped pecans, and a plethora of stories about schooner ships, James Dean, big rigs, Leon Russell and other subjects between, Elliott loaded into his Volvo station wagon to wind through the cypress-lined roads overlooking the inlet Tomales Bay. He passed through his friend Nancy’s lavender field, and by the dunes at Dillon Beach where he and his friend Venta hike. In a vulnerable moment, he recalled his wife, Jan, the last of 5, who died from alcoholism in 2001. “I used to be very devastated when she left us,” he said.

In 1995, the pair were living in a motor home in Point Reyes while she worked for Ridgetop Music, owned by Jesse Colin Young of the Youngbloods. Someday, they decided to move north to sight see. “I used to be driving and admiring the bay on the left, and he or she was within the passenger seat and saw an indication on the appropriate,” he said. “We pulled in and rented the home on the spot.” He’s lived in it ever since.

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