In 2013 I went to Toronto, Ontario to attend a conference. While I was there, I went on a walking tour of the Yorkville neighbourhood. We went through some of the music histories that have taken place in this area. I love music, but I didn’t know that there was a huge music scene in Yorkville in the 1960s. The Yorkville neighbourhood was where you’d find, “Canada’s youthful Bohemian scene.” Musicians like Joni Mitchell, Neil and Young, wrote and performed music here.
Our tour guide Dave had stories about other musicians from the ’60s as well. One was of a performance John Lennon and Yoko Ono gave at The Toronto Rock & Roll Festival in 1969. It’s said that it was this festival that gave John Lennon the confidence that he could make it as a solo artist. You can blame Toronto for breaking up The Beatles (I kid…kinda).
Most of the buildings, record stores, music clubs and coffee houses of the Yorkville music scene have gone. Luckily our walking tour also includes going to the bar. Here we enjoyed a beer on the patio and got to see some photos from this neighbourhood in the 1960s. After the tour, Dave emailed us some links to some of the songs and musicians that would have played in Yorkville.
Today Yorkville is one of the wealthiest neighbourhoods in North America. It has the third most expensive retail space in North America. You won’t see places like The Riverboat Coffeehouse, where emerging musicians would perform. Nowadays you’re much more likely to see designer stores and high-end hotels here. It was fascinating to hear about the musicians who played here in the 1960s. It was interesting that Yorkville went from Toronto’s Haight-Ashbury to its Rodeo Drive. If you are coming to Toronto, you should check out the Yorkville neighbourhood. It might not be like it was in the 1960s, but it’s still great to wander around.
Things You Should Know
I received complimentary admission for this walking tour. All opinions in this post are my own. Unfortunately, this tour is no longer available. If you want to explore Yorkville, a general map is here. If you want to learn more about music history in Yorkville check out this documentary. You can also read the book Making The Scene.
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