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The Village, through the lyrics of Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift during a recording session at Electric Lady Studios in 2019, photo courtesy Electric Lady Studios

At the age of 24, after spending a decade building her music career in Nashville, Tennessee, Taylor Swift moved to New York City. Like so many artists before her, Swift was particularly drawn to Greenwich Village, and many of her songs since have paid tribute to the neighborhood.

During her early period in New York and already enjoying a certain level of fame, Swift was known to perform at The Bitter End on Bleecker Street (one of our past Village Awardees), following in the footsteps of numerous renowned musicians. She has recorded portions of three of her albums at Electric Lady Studios on West 8th Street, the studio that was famously founded by Jimi Hendrix in 1970, and which has hosted recording sessions for the likes of Patti Smith, Led Zeppelin, Run DMC, Bob Dylan, Madonna, and so many others. Personally, Swift is often seen frequenting a variety of small businesses and restaurants in the neighborhood, including Via Corota (51 Grove Street) and ZZ’s Clam Bar (169 Thompson Street). And further solidifying her ties to the Village, in 2022 she received an honorary doctorate from NYU.

The iconic blue awning at The Bitter End, 147 Bleecker Street

Though Swift’s engagement with the Village (documented through both song and paparazzi sightings) became increasingly prevalent once she moved to Cornelia Street for a period from 2016-17, she was clearly drawn to the area from the moment she arrived in town in the spring of 2014. New York City features prominently throughout her lyrics since that date, and Greenwich Village and the East Village are among the few, if not the only, New York City neighborhoods she references explicitly in her music.

No matter your musical preferences, Swift is undoubtedly an evocative lyricist. Her first and most immediately recognizable homage to New York City, the song “Welcome to New York,” (from her fifth studio album, 1989, released in 2014) features the line: “Walking through a crowd, the Village is aglow.” And from there, her admiration for the neighborhood clearly takes off.

23 Cornelia Street

“I rent a place on Cornelia Street, I say casually in the car…” (“Cornelia Street,” from the album Lover, published in 2019)

Perhaps her most well-known tie to Greenwich Village is that of the apartment she rented on Cornelia Street, dutifully memorialized in the eponymous song.

Swift’s chosen residences point to a proclivity for New York’s historic architecture. While she owns several units at 155-159 Franklin Street, a neo-Renaissance store and lofts building located within the TriBeCa West Historic District, her rental property at 23 Cornelia Street (which she occupied while her permanent home was undergoing renovations) is also a historically significant building. Situated within the Greenwich Village Historic District Extension II, which Village Preservation proposed and fought to have landmarked, the ground floor of 23 Cornelia Street was built to accommodate horses and carriages ca. 1912. Interestingly, both the Cornelia and Franklin Street abodes originally included this horse (and later automobile) function, and it is no coincidence—the converted layout of these buildings enabled Swift to get in a car while still inside her home, thus avoiding the public eye.

The High Line, image courtesy highline.org

“Heartbeat on the High Line…” (“Cardigan,” from the album Folklore, 2020)

The base of the High Line is firmly situated along Gansevoort Street at the northern end of the West Village and at the edge of the Gansevoort Market Historic District, which Village Preservation worked to get designated in 2003.

132 1/2 East 7th Street

“Dive bar on the east side, where you at?” (“Delicate,” from the album Reputation, 2017)

While it is presumed that Swift’s reference to the “east side” refers to the East Village, the exact location of this dive bar is speculative. However, a number of sources believe it to be the Lovers of Today bar at 132 1/2 East 7th Street, located across the street from Tompkins Square Park and just shy of the eastern boundary of the East Village/Lower East Side Historic District.

“You’re the West Village, you still do it for me…” (“False God,” from the album Lover, 2019)

Many songs in Taylor Swift’s oeuvre call out sites within our neighborhoods, and repeatedly use the West Village as symbolic of her feelings, as in the above lyric. Collectively, they vividly bring to life one musician’s experience getting to know and love New York City and the Village.

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