This week marks the centennial of the birth of activist and author Jane Jacobs, who is widely credited with saving Manhattan’s Greenwich Village from destruction by a planned urban expressway in the 1960s. Jacobs spent years fighting highway-loving New York City urban planner Robert Moses. Their conflict, considered one of the great victories in urban design history, is so famous an opera about it is in the works.
Now it appears that Bob Dylan played a role in it, penning a protest song against Moses with Jacobs. A sheet of lyrics found in the New York University library, first published on a Tumblr and investigated by Gothamist last year, is indeed the work of Jacobs and Dylan, as Gothamist has once again reported.
Image Credit:Tuli Kupferberg Collection, Fales Library NYU, from Belcimer on Tumblr
Jim Jacobs, Jane's son and the co-curator of Jane at Home, an exhibition on the personal history of urban activists (running in Toronto until May 8), told The Globe and Mail that the lyrics are the real deal:
"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."
The song, called “Listen, Robert Moses,” was never recorded. “It’s not the world’s greatest song,” Jacobs told the The Globe and Mail. Obviously, Dylan needed some practice before he really got the hang of protest songs.