New York - So Good They Sang Its Praises; More Songs Have Been Written about Manhattan Than Any Other US City - but Its Residents Are Still a Hard Lot to Impress

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), December 20, 2009 | Go to article overview

New York - So Good They Sang Its Praises; More Songs Have Been Written about Manhattan Than Any Other US City - but Its Residents Are Still a Hard Lot to Impress


Byline: DYLAN JONES

You know you're from New York when you can get into a four-hour argument about the best way to get from Columbus Circle to Battery Park at 3:30 on the Friday before a long weekend, but couldn't find Wisconsin on a map if someone held a gun to your head (which, being from New York, you're probably used to by now). You know you're from New York when you believe that being able to swear at people in their own language makes you multilingual.

You also know you're from New York when you consider Frank Sinatra's New York, New York to be the American national anthem.

Some cities have their buildings, others have their women. New York has its songs. Lots of them. From Rodgers and Hart's Manhattan ('We'll have Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island too...') and New York, New York from the musical On The Town ('The Bronx is up and the Battery's down') to Billy Joel's New York State Of Mind and Paloma Faith's recent hit, New York, the city has more anthems than any other in the world.

From the hem of Harlem to the bowels of the Bowery, via the tony townhouses of the Upper East Side, the bohemian brownstones north of Columbus Circle and the rejuvenated skyscraper hotels of midtown, Manhattan is a city of song. Or, more specifi-cally, a city of songs.

Just think of the way the town has been personified by words and music: Native New Yorker by Odyssey, An Englishman In New York by Sting, New York's A Lonely Town by the Tradewinds, Hey Manhattan! by Prefab Sprout, New York by U2, Bad Sneakers by Steely Dan, Lullaby Of Birdland by Ella Fitzgerald, 53rd And 3rd by the Ramones, On Broadway by the Drifters, 59th Street Bridge Song by Simon and Garfunkel, Sunday In New York by Mel Torme, Everybody's Out Of Town by Burt Bacharach and everyone's favourite yuletide yomp, Fairytale Of New York by the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl. A short while ago readers of Rolling Stone surprisingly voted Back In NYC by Genesis, from The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, as one of their top ten New York songs; and who could forget the song that many think is Manhattan's real signature tune, New York Minute by Don Henley? Sinatra's epic is probably the best-known New York song (even though it was originally written for Liza Minnelli, for Martin Scorsese's much-neglected 1977 film of the same name ), but it has recently been usurped by another anthem, Jay-Z and Alicia Keys' Empire State Of Mind, which is the best New York song of the new century so far. The song has become so iconic so quickly, it's even attracted its own feature in the New York Times, written by Ben Sisario. …

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