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June 12, 2014

"Vas you ever in Zinzinnati?" And if they fought, would Cleveland beat up Cincinnati?

Good morning, Buckeyes. Well, to be fair, The Pretenders' classic "My City Was Gone" (better known by its snarky, ironic refrain "Hey Ho/Way to go/Ohio") in the live recent performance below is about the Akron-Cleveland megapolis in northeastern Ohio where the band's leader, Chrissie Hynde, grew up the 1960s and 1970s. In the 1982 song, Hynde complains about the environmental and other damage that industrialization eventually did over the decades to the region and her "pretty countryside".

Things got better, though, by the end of the 1980s. As in the similar case of steel-making Pittsburgh, Ohio's northeast reinvented itself as a center of business services, banking, smaller busineses, health care, sports and even the arts. And Cleveland, of course, is the Rock 'n Roll Capital of the World. But the rust belt still starts here, and anyone can see the scars on the land: a reminder of the area's historical importance in as a blue collar stronghold in shipping, refining, processing, and automobile parts manufacturing, and the social price paid for it.

"My City was Gone" is not about or directed at Cincinnati, which was the last of several hometowns I had growing up in the Midwest. Cincy is more white collar--it has always been primarily a town of professionals and business people. It is also smaller, more conservative, and less industrial than Akron-Cleveland. It's civilized and pretty if nothing else. Also, it actually sits on the Mason-Dixon line. The Queen City, with its rolling topography, forested hills and bluffs overlooking the Ohio River, is on the northern edge of the American South, tucked away in the the extreme southwest corner of Ohio. It's more relaxed than other Northern cities. Cincinnati people speak with a faint southern drawl.

In thier own ways, of course, Cleveland and Cincinnati are unique, vibrant and great American towns. But we do think that in a fight between these two cities--you know, like a fist fight in the street as in days gone by--that gritty and blustery Cleveland would beat up smart, respectful Cincinnati. (Yeah, we think about these things, including who could beat up who in the office.) Chrissie Hynde? She lives mainly in London these days. Finally, "Vas you ever in Zinzinnati?" is a book by Dick Perry, a great Cincinnatian. Now that we have all that straight, many thanks to one-time Buckeye Ray Ward for his fine ear and generosity.


Akron's Chrissie Hynde laments the loss of her past Ohio in a powerful rock anthem she's performed for thirty years and only she can make work.

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Cincinnati's famous Over-the-Rhine district, an architectural and multicultural wonder of nearly 900 older buildings in one 'hood.

Posted by JD Hull at June 12, 2014 11:52 PM

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