Music and Forgotten Cities

Numerous songs have been written about specific cities. These include New York, New York; Meet Me in St. Louis; I Left My Heart in San Francisco; Galveston; Cleveland Rocks; or Viva Las Vegas! Often these tunes portray the positive side of the city and its residents. Some are even later used for markerting, public relations, or tourism purposes.

Other songs refer to a specific city in the title and lyrics, but the song is not necessarily about the community itself, such as By the Time I Get to Phoenix or Detroit Rock City.

However, a growing catalogue of songs have been written about the economic, geographic, structural, or political problems facing cities generally, or specific to one place like Allentown. Below is a partial list of songs written about the problems and challenges facing North American cities:

Allentown – Billy Joel

Big Yellow Taxi – Joni Mitchell (“They paved paradise and put up a parking lot”)

In the Ghetto – Elvis Presley

In the City – The Eagles (gotta love Joe Walsh)

Living for the CityStevie Wonder

America – Simon and Garfunkel

My City Was Gone (about Akron, OH) – The Pretenders

Our Town – James Taylor (from the Pixar move, Cars)

Sprawl II – Arcade Fire

Subdivisions – Rush

The Suburbs – Arcade Fire

Youngstown – Bruce Springsteen

The lyrics from the song In The City by The Eagles (provided below) are an excellent example of the how the problems facing cities can put to into an enjoyable, yet poignant song.

In The City

Somewhere out there on that horizon
Out beyond the neon lights
I know there must be somethin’ better
but there’s nowhere else in sight
It’s survival in the city
When you live from day to day
City streets don’t have much pity
When you’re down, that’s where you’ll stay
In the city, oh, oh.
In the city

I was born here in the city
With my back against the wall
Nothing grows, and life ain’t very pretty
No one’s there to catch you when you fall
Somewhere out on that horizon
Faraway from the neon sky
I know there must be somethin’ better
And I can’t stay another night
In the city, oh, oh.
In the city

This entry was posted in civics, economics, homelessness, land use, Music, poverty and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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