May 3, 2016

How Bob Dylan hooked up with Jane Jacobs

Tree Hugger

It’s Jane Jacobs’ centenary on May 4, and it is a big deal among urbanists everywhere and Torontonians in particular, as it was her adopted home. Although she died a decade ago, she is still being argued about, criticized by some and worshipped by others. Charles Morohn is one of the latter, and writes at Strong Towns:
I read her as an intellectual radical, someone akin to Charles Darwin or even a Leonardo da Vinci, a person who was far more worried about the thought process used to approach complex problems than any specific outcome. I found in her writing a true scientific mind, always observing, testing and learning from the world around her. The slogans subsequently adopted by the planning profession on mixed use, density and walkability are mere byproducts of this radical core, an oversimplification, if you will.
It turns out that she also was a bit of a song-writer; her son Jim Jacobs describes in the Globe and Mail how she wrote a protest song with Bob Dylan, during her first big battle against Robert Moses and the Lower Manhattan Expressway:
Actually, Jane and Bob Dylan wrote a song together. Jane needed a protest song for the fight against the Lower Manhattan Expressway in New York. A friend of ours, Harry Jackson, an artist, had a folk singer sleeping on his floor. He sent Dylan around to the house. Jane helped him, telling him how a protest song was structured and how it worked. I think it was the first protest song he ever wrote… Nobody recorded it. The song was Listen, Robert Moses…. It’s not the world’s greatest song. But it’s an interesting piece.

1 comment:

Louis Massano said...

Jane Jacobs wrote an impressive indictment of the kind of urban planning that destroyed the street corner society of unplanned (and by my lights, chaotic, formless and ultimately people unfriendly) cities like New York City - cities that did have at the time she wrote her book - and even today a great deal of what might be called "unplanned, spontaneous charm" whicht was being destroyed by planners (and real estate operators with whom planners obediently consort.) Even so, architects and planners like the great Paul Goldberger also valued a great deal. That classic book - which had some very good recommendations in its overly verbose attack on a kind of misguided city planning - has now been adopted by urban planning programs - which now recognize the significance of the valid criticisms of "anti-planners" like Ms Jacobs. It is considered a classic source of cautionary advice to planners.

But then she left the United States and its cities - and moved to Canada. No great problem there with moving to Canada - a more sane and sober nation than our own. But the Canadian city she moved to was Toronto - one of the most "urban planned" cities in North America - not only today, but even wat back she moved there decades ago! Go figure!