Folk music and Yorkville Coffeehouses

What was Folk Revival Music?

From roughly 1964-1967, Toronto's Yorkville neighbourhood was a haven for hippies, art and music - specifically folk revival. Starting in the 1940s and reaching its height in the 1960s, in coffee house circuits in New York and San Francisco - folk revival music took America by storm. Part of the reason was the rise of "singer songwriters" with controversial and political opinions. The music played by these individuals evoked social justice concerns and was considered more "intellectual" than rock n' roll. This began in America with the likes of Pete Seeger and continued with Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. Groups such as Peter, Paul and Mary also gained popularity at this time.
According to the author of Born at the Right Time, Doug Owram, it was the "music of a subcommunity of older youth that existed on the fringes of society in larger cities". Folk music made its mark upon the rising youth culture of the time. It provided the soundtrack to an age of social activism. To Canadian music historian; Nicholas Jennings, Canadian folk rock was written in an autobiographical sense - entrenched in the artist's personal life - as well as rich with Canadian imagery and a unique sense of place. Yorkville was the only place in Toronto to experience this music, as opposed to the venues of Toronto in current day being scattered throughout the city.
Folk music proved financially popular for these businesses and they were able to book performers from the United States and beyond. The coffee houses were a key source of revenue for musicians, with top performers making two to three thousand dollars a week. The Globe and Mail's "THINGS TO DO IN TORONTO" featured a weekly section titled "COFFEE HOUSES" which detailed the performers of the week. Audiences packed into the coffee houses in droves and paid cover charges to hear their favorite folk artists and groups.

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