For my final writing assignment of college, I recently finished writing a walking tour of the East and West Villages for one of my favorite courses of my college career. It was a course called “Writing New York,” which was listed under the English Department and was taught by Bryan Waterman and Cyrus Patell, both English professors.
The walking tour I wrote tours some of the vital locations for counter culture in the West Village and East Village while discussing the collaborative nature of counter culture creation in New York City in the middle of the 20th century.
I focused primarily on the path from the Lost Generation and the Bohemians in Greenwich Village, to the Beat Poets hanging out all over the place, to the Folk Artists around MacDougal Street, and finally to the new New York School poets and punk rock musicians of the East Village.
Because I am very proud of this piece and because I love the landscape that New York provides for creative minds, I have decided to post the walking tour in increments on Nebraskan Thoughts. And thus begins my exploration, “From the Lost Generation to the Punks.” Enjoy!
Most of you probably know about the rich literary history of Greenwich Village. Many famous authors throughout the 19th and 20th centuries lived in this neighborhood. Names like Henry James, Edith Wharton, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Edgar Allen Poe, Mark Twain, Willa Cather and more are associated with these crooked streets. However, there is also a strong link between this literary culture and the music scene that also formed in the East and West Villages in the 1960s and 1970s.
Many of the popular folk and punk artists that performed regularly in Greenwich Village were greatly influenced by the writers and poets who had lived and were currently living in the area. In fact, in the case of several of the punk artists of the 1970s, they were actively part of the poetry scene as well as the music scene.
In order to understand how Punk music being played in the Village in the 1970s is linked to earlier literary movements, it is first important that we understand the culture of the earlier literary generations.
The café and club culture of the writers, artists, and musicians allowed for a collaborative atmosphere, with everyone being influenced by everyone else and borrowing ideas from each other. In particular, the music scene collaborated with and borrowed from the literary and poetry movements.
Stop #1: The White Horse Tavern
We start our tour on Hudson Street, deep in the West Village at the White Horse Tavern, at the corner of 11th Street. This bar was a favorite spot for many members of the literary community during the early 1950s. It is particularly famous for being one of Dylan Thomas’s favorite haunts and the story is that he drank himself to death here, however, although he drank at the Tavern often, he did not drink himself to death and died of unrelated causes.
Later on, this bar became an important spot for writers like Norman Mailer and Hunter S. Thompson. Musicians such as Bob Dylan and Jim Morrison also began to spend time in this establishment in the 1960s. It is also worth noting that Bob Dylan, originally Robert Zimmerman, supposedly took his name from Dylan Thomas.
Next Up: Chumley’s