The Yorkville district located in Toronto was a village where young musical and artistic talent could gather and share their love of music during the 1960's.

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        The Yorkville district located in Toronto was a village where young musical and artistic talent could gather and share their love of music during the 1960’s. It was a place that launched the careers of many Canadian artists such as Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, Ian Tyson, and Neil Young, just to name a few. The area began its legacy with a couple of coffeehouse’s that offered live entertainment named the Half Beat and the 71. The entertainment was usually irregular with different styles playing on any given night, such as a flamenco guitarist one week and a folk-rock singing duo the next. As time went on, many other coffeehouses and clubs sprouted up along Avenue Road, Cumberland St. and Yorkville Ave., and at its peak there were over forty clubs and coffeehouses in the area. A “scene” was created which attracted musicians from all over Canada and the World but most importantly, solidified Yorkville as a starting point for the most talented and creative musicians in Canada. Yorkville was the foundation in a progression toward popularizing Canadian music in Canada during the sixties.  Once musicians became popular in the Yorkville scene, they usually chose to migrate into the United States in search of fame and fortune, which the Canadian Music Industry could rarely provide for them. Yorkville also served as grounds for a youthful social movement which thrived through the music of the times.

During the early sixties, folk music was beginning to make an impact on popular music in Canada. Gordon Lightfoot and Ian Tyson and Sylvia Fricker were the pioneers of folk music in Yorkville. Canadians could relate to the lyrical content and the introspective composition that these and other folk artists to follow, conveyed in their music. The venues in Yorkville happened to be the most creative environment where most of these artists, many who had come from all over Canada, could express this through the numerous coffeehouse shows. The most notable being the Riverboat, but others such as the Mousehole, Purple Onion, Upper Crust, Night Owl were all in a constant battle to offer the most popular music which in turn, would give them the best business. The amount of international recognition that these and other Canadian folk artists such as Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, and Bruce Cockburn have received is not just a coincidence. They were, and some still are, able to capture people’s imaginations through their soul-searching which has been inspired by Canada’s vast landscape and unique culture. Essentially Canada’s people, land, and culture were at the forefront in terms of motivation for creating Canadian folk music. Gordon Lightfoot’s song “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” best exemplifies all of these attributes together with lyrics like “There was a time in this fair land when the railroad did not run” and “when the green, dark forest was too silent to be real” and workers “swinging [their] hammers in the bright blazing sun,”  This was a direct attempt to offer Canada its own identity in popular music which during the sixties was a predominantly over-saturated American market. The amount of Canadian artists forced to migrate into the United States in order for their music to be heard, is clear evidence of that being the case.

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        It is important to recognize the limited role the Canadian Music Recording Industry had in developing Canadian artists who played in the Yorkville area. The industry during the 1950’s and up until the end of the 60’s was a “relatively underdeveloped and fragmented one” which consisted mainly of small recording company’s who were concerned with “record pressing” and “custom duplication of Canadian-made masters so as to maximize the revenue potential of existing operations”. The majority of record companies in Canada then, were essentially distributors and not in the business of signing performers to contracts and essentially furthering their careers. The ...

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