In 2013 I went to Toronto, Ontario to attend a conference. While I had been to Toronto before I looked forward to seeing more of the city. As part of the conference I went on a walking tour of the Yorkville neighbourhood. The tour went through some of the music history that has taken place in this area.
I love music, but I didn’t know that there was a huge music scene in Yorkville in the 1960’s. The Yorkville neighbourhood was “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 60’s as well. One was of a performance John Lennon and Yoko Ono gave at the 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 including a going to the bar. Here we enjoyed a beer on the patio and got to see some photos from this neighbourhood in the 1960’s. After the tour Dave emailed us some links to some of the song and musicians that would have played in Yorkville.
This is a song called It’s My Time by The Mynah Birds. This was a group that played in the music clubs here in the 1960’s. Fun fact The Mynah Bird members included Rick James and Neil Young.
Today Yorkville is one of the richest 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 1960’s. 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 1960’s, but it’s still great to wander around.
Disclaimer: I received complimentary admission for this walking tour. All opinions in this post are my own.
Unfortunately this tour is no longer offered. If you want to explore Yorkville a general map is here. If you want to learn more about the music history in Yorkville check out this documentary. You can also read the book Making The Scene.
While I was in Toronto I stayed with family. If you are looking to book a hotel in Toronto you can do so here.
Have you been to Toronto?