Yorkville in the 60s

The Birthplace of Canadian Song

During the 1960s, the Village of Yorkville was the heart of the folk music scene. Some forty coffee- houses and clubs opened their doors nightly to singer-songwriters such as Ian & Sylvia, Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, Murray McLauchlan, Bruce Cockburn and Dan Hill, who performed their first compositions in these smoky venues.

Hundreds of singer-songwriters and musicians from all over Canada flocked to the Village, and their music evolved to include blues, pop and psychedelic rock. Hippies, flower-children, and long-haired teenagers thronged the streets to revel in the sounds of this legendary music mecca.

The Riverboat Coffee House was the most famous of Yorkville’s coffeehouses, where Canadian luminaries including Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot and Joni Mitchell played. Other venues such as the Purple Onion, the Mynah Bird, El Patio, Chez Monique, the Night Owl, and the Penny Farthing featured Leonard Cohen, Buffy Sainte-Marie, David Clayton Thomas, Stitch in Tyme, the Paupers, the Sparrows, the Mynah Birds, Kensington Market, and Luke & the Apostles, to name a few of the many, many singers and musicians who further defined Canadian music.

Three recording studios were located in Yorkville, and attracted major acts like The Guess Who, Anne Murray, and Lighthouse. Yorkville can proudly claim to be the vibrant birthplace of Canadian song.

The Riverboat Coffee House Lament

All the coffeehouses and clubs from those psychedelic love-in days are long gone
The smoke has cleared
Mini-skirts and go-go boots have been tossed aside
Pretty flowers in the hair have long withered
Love beads have lost their lustre
Carefree hippies have settled into middle-age contentment
Yorkville now sanitized with designer boutiques and up-scale condos
And on the Riverboat site sits the five-star Hazelton Hotel

© 2009 Gee Chung