Bruce Cockburn & Toronto: A Historical Tour

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(#10) Performance Venues in Toronto: Yorkville

Yorkville in the 60's

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For more information about the writing of Cockburn in the late 1960's, read "Four 'Lost' Poems of Bruce Cockburn" in the News Archive.
In the late 1960's, Bruce performed regularly in Yorkville, the Haight-Ashbury of Toronto at the time. A melange of coffee shops, low rent apartments, and funky hippie stores, it became the musical center of the city.

The influx of counter-cultural young people to the area made the city administrators and politicians nervous and it wasn't long before things came to a head. The hippies wanted the city to close Yorkville Ave. (the main thoroughfare) to traffic and make it a pedestrian mall.

A petition was circulated and most of the businesses on the street were in favor of the idea. Yet, the city refused and wanted to "clean up" the area and turn it into an upscale shopping district instead. A party at a warehouse was broken up by the cops, and the hippies headed backto Yorkville and sat down in the street, preventing any cars from entering.

Bruce Cockburn was at the warehouse party, but said:

"I remember hearing about the sit-in, but I really wasn't involved in things like that then, so I didn't make the connection."

-- quoted in Before The Goldrush, by Nicholas Jennings.

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In the 1980's Cockburn did indeed 'get into politics'. Check out our "Issues" Section for more information.
There is even a photo of Bruce next to the quote in the article, captioned, "Cockburn: more into pot than protest."

The Toronto police ended up breaking up the sit-in in a very aggressive way, kicking and striking many of the reportedly peaceful protestors. A large police presence remained in Yorkville from then on, and in a couple of years the city got its wish. The transformation into mainstream shopping area had begun.

By the year 2000, Yorkville had Canada's highest income population bracket, with high priced condos taking over the district. A nice area, but one that's now very antiseptic and somewhat soulless feeling (at least to me).

This page is part of The Cockburn Project, a unique website that exists to document the work of Canadian singer-songwriter and musician Bruce Cockburn. The Project archives self-commentary by Cockburn on his songs and music, and supplements this core part of the website with news, tour dates, and other current information.