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Music is the background to lives and our experiences. When we travel or experience something new, it’s often a song that triggers that memory. And these songs about New Jersey will have you reliving days gone by and creating new memories.
The Garden State has a rich musical heritage. From the Chairman of the Board (Frank Sinatra) to The Boss (Bruce Springsteen), everyone has a favorite singer or band from here. Whether your passion is rock or punk, or you prefer folk or rap, there’s something for everyone here.
Use this playlist to load up your music player before hitting the road or hitting the sand at the shore.
“Jersey Girl” by Bruce Springsteen
Tom Waits originally wrote this song for his future wife, who was living in the Garden State. Later, Bruce Springsteen covered it and changed it by adding a few lines, turning it into one of the most loved Jersey songs of all time. Many of the song lyrics have become popular quotes about the state. It’s fitting that one of the most famous musicians from New Jersey would have the most popular song.
“Tweeter and the Monkey Man” by The Traveling Wilburys
While there is some controversy over who can take credit for drafting the lyrics, it is believed that Bob Dylan was primarily responsible, as well as singing the lead. The song is set in the Garden State and is about two drug dealers, a police officer, and the cop’s sister, who is a love interest to one of the drug dealers.
“No Woman, No Cry” by Fugees
As everyone knows, this song was originally scored by Bob Marley in 1974. But in 1995, Fugees covered it, changed the lyrics and created a modern masterpiece. The lyrics of inclusion and the stinging social critique mentions the housing projects, but provides an optimistic view of the future.
“The Private Life of Bill and Sue” by The Beach Boys
This song should be on every Garden State playlist with its reference to Jersey Shore. The famous band, The Beach Boys, sings about “Santa Barbara to the Jersey Shore” in this hit song. It’s rumored that the band had Ocean City, NJ in mind when Brian Wilson teamed up with producer Joe Thomas to craft the lyrics. The melody conjures up long days wasting time at the beach, sitting in the sun, and the people who observe them.
“You Can’t Catch Me” by Chuck Berry
While there have been numerous renditions of this song by popular artists such as The Rolling Stones and John Lennon, the original song was by Chuck Berry. It’s about speeding through the state (and doing some reckless things) before getting caught by the cops. It’s so naughty that it mentions the Garden State twice in the lyrics.
“Last Call” by Kanye West
“Last Call” makes an appearance on Kayne West’s album called College Dropout. He raps about Newark with the lines, “me and my mother drove to Newark.”
“Big Casino” by Jimmy Eat World
In their song “Big Casino,” the alternative rock band, Jimmy Eat World, sings about being “a New Jersey success story.” It was released in the Chase This Light album in 2007.
“Battle Ship” by Red Hot Chili Peppers
“New Jersey’s guns get ready to shoot” is a line from “Battle Ship” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. This song, and that line, refers to the battleship, which was the second US Navy ship to be named after the state.
“Raise Your Hands” by Bon Jovi
No list of songs about New Jersey would be complete without “Raise Your Hands” by one of the most bands from New Jersey: Bon Jovi. “(Raise your hands) From New Jersey to Tokyo,” and “(Raise your hands) Salem,” are the two shoutouts to the Garden State.
“My City of Ruins” by Bruce Springsteen
This song was originally written to be about Asbury Park, Springsteen’s hometown, during the 2002 economic depression. However, before it was released, 9/11 occurred and some of the lyrics were adapted to fit New York and the resilience of the American people.
“Garden State Stomp,” by Dave Van Ronk
In the album, Going Back to Brooklyn, artist Dave Ran Rock sings a song about New Jersey. While he is known more for folk and blues, this raspy compilation of place names and common associations with the state will leave you smiling.
“Strange Names (New Jersey’s Got ’em)” by Steve Forbert
This is another addition to the list that takes a fun and lighthearted view of the all different strange names there are in the Garden State. From the prolific singer/songwriter, this tune has a very laid-back, road trip feel.
“Over on the Jersey Side” by Billy Murray
This song is not well-loved by the people of NJ. Written in 1908 by Jack Norworth, who co-wrote “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” slams the state in this tune. The song has had a renaissance as Garden State residents have embraced the hate the wear it as a badge of honor.
“So Jersey” by The Bouncing Souls
From the album The Gold Record, this track is about being true to yourself. The characters in the song won’t be held down by their pasts and are pushing forward to a brighter tomorrow.
“Jersey Boy” by Eddie Rabbitt
Rabbitt began his musical career in the ‘70s as a songwriter. This song is the cover, title track for the album with the same name. It talks about how his parents came to NJ from Ireland, his first romance, and making his way to Nashville.
“New Jersey Wife” by Dion
Dion wrote this song alongside Bill Tuohy for the album Inside Job. It’s about a mother and wife who is what we would now call a soccer mom. Dion, at one point, encourages this character to let go and let God take over.
“New Jersey, New Jersey” by The Consensus Bureau
A list of New Jersey songs would not be complete without this gem. This playful song is filled with puns and rhymes that are inspired by the names of the towns here. It is a clever song with lots of repetitive mentions of the state name.
“Back to Jersey” by Billy Hector
Billy Hector is a singer-songwriter-guitarist from NJ. This song is from his 2002 album Busy Man. “Subway’s crazy, the whole world’s in such a hurry/I took the PATH train south, went back home to Jersey.” The PATH train is a staple of life for residents in the northern counties because connects the Garden State directly with Manhattan.
“Can’t Go Back to Jersey” by G. Love
G. Love’s song is about him trying to convince his significant other not to throw him out. “Can’t go back to Jersey” is the line that he repeats to the love interest. The song never says why he can’t go back, just that he can’t. Add some Special Sauce and you’ve got an instant classic.
“Deep in the Heart of Jersey” by ‘Uncle’ Floyd Vivino
“The dumps in June ain’t like perfume/Deep in the heart of Jersey/But it’s my state, I think it’s great/Deep in the heart of Jersey,” states Floyd in his endearing song about his home state. It is a parody of “Deep in the Heart of Texas,” and is known to be one of the better NJ songs to truly capture what New Jereyans feel about their state.
“Jersey City” by Bobby Long
“Jersey City, I’m on my way,” Bobby Long sang in the 1960 blues. It’s about him having to move to the Garden State and leave behind either his girlfriend or wife (the song is unclear).
“America” by Simon & Garfunkel
One of the most legendary songs by this singer-songwriter duo conjures up images of simpler days. As we are all, “Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike,” we relive our simpler days.
Have we missed your favorite? What’s your favorite song about NJ?