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Real City Matters

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Rocket Rhythms: Guitarist Jim Greenham

In which we chat with some of the people who bring much-needed sanity to your morning commute.

If you live in Toronto, you’ve seen street musician Jim Greenham. With his flowing brown hair, angular frame, and intense look of concentration—not to mention his distinctive brand of soaring psychedelic rock—he’s a hard guy to miss.

Often camped out at the corner of Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue, Greenham has also been on the TTC’s musician roster for the past two years. A lifelong resident of Toronto, he took up the guitar when he was just a Jimmy Page-loving 12-year-old, and soon wowed his parents with his ability to learn songs extremely quickly. They enrolled him in lessons, and he’s been pursing a career in music ever since.

Greenham admits that he is “obsessed” with music. He has been involved in a number of groups, including a psychedelic rock band called Group Therapy. Also, Smile and Shine, with whom he’s putting out a new album. On top of that, Greenham does solo work, and teaches guitar to adult learners.

Though Greenham now makes his living entirely as a musician, that wasn’t always the case. He worked as an electrician and was an inspector at Scarborough’s former General Motors plant for six years. He loved the jobs, and the good money they allowed him to make, even without much of an education. And yet, he couldn’t stay away from music.

“I’ve tried to do other things,” he said. “I’ve tried to say: ‘OK, I’m going to move on.’ And, it’s a lot more than a hobby to me. I can’t leave it. It’s not even a passion, it’s a drive. I have to do this.”

Greenham plays in TTC stations five hours a day, and credits the gig with enabling him to pursue his passion full-time. The job is not without danger. A man with a knife snuck up behind him and security officers (who were watching on closed-circuit cameras) had to intervene. Still, Greenham prefers playing in stations to the streets. And while most riders don’t interact with him, he’s still upbeat about the experience.

“A lot of stressed-out people walk through here,” he said. “To hear a musician playing your favourite song, at a high level, with passion—I think that’s good for people. I think that’s my purpose here.”

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