I was listening to the radio the other day and happened to hear the song “Lake Shore Drive” by the Chicago-based band, Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah. Released in 1971, the song may have described an acid trip (“Lake Shore Drive” can be abbreviated to “LSD”) or it may have simply been a love song to a truly remarkable stretch of roadway in Chicago. At any rate, it enjoyed a resurgence in popularity when it was featured on the soundtrack of 2017’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
There aren’t that many songs that extol the beauty of the built environment but this is definitely one of them:
There's a road I'd like to tell you about, lives in my home town.
Lake Shore Drive the road is called and it'll take you up or down,
From rags on up to riches fifteen minutes you can fly.
Pretty blue lights along the way, help you right on by,
And the blue lights shining with a heavenly grace, help you right on by.
As the name of the road implies, Lake Shore Drive runs along the shore of Lake Michigan. As it does so it passes by the “riches” of the north side of the city as well as the historically more economically depressed south side. As it does this, it passes alongside Chicago’s iconic downtown.
And it starts up north from Hollywood, water on the driving side.
Concrete mountains rearing up, throwing shadows just about five.
Sometimes you can smell the green if your mind is feeling fine.
There ain't no finer place to be, than running Lake Shore Drive,
And there's no peace of mind, or place you see, than riding on Lake Shore Drive.
I lived in Chicago for a couple of years after college and I have fond memories of driving this stretch of roadway. As it approaches downtown It heads directly towards the John Hancock Center (see above) before veering off at the last minute to run alongside the Magnificent Mile as you head into the Loop. It’s an incredibly dynamic way to be introduced to a city.
And there ain't no road just like it,
Anywhere I found,
Running south on Lake Shore drive heading into town.
Just slicking on by on LSD, Friday night trouble bound.
Driving by a city is no replacement for exploring it on foot, but Lake Shore Drive does provides a rich alternative way of experiencing Chicago. Cities are diverse urban assemblies, and there’s no reason the way we experience them can’t be just as varied.