14 Songs That Make You Want to Visit New York City

by NYCgo.com Staff


We've heard others try to claim the crown, but to our ears the world capital of popular music has to be New York City—home to Tin Pan Alley and birthplace of American punk rock and hip-hop. Whether getting into New York or Empire states of mind, singing odes to particular intersections or walking on the wild side, musicians have been belting out tributes to the Artist Formerly Known as New Amsterdam virtually since it came into being. And when you hear those songs, close your eyes and picture our great city, chances are you'll wish you were here. Below are 14 of the songs we think do the most to get people into the New York groove.—Jonathan Zeller

“Rockaway Beach,” The Ramones (Rocket to Russia, 1977)

For fans of: Street art, ’80s hip-hop battle tracks, the subway
New Yorkiest lyrics: “Every morning I took the train to High Street station / On the way back up, hearing battle tapes / Through the underground, underneath the sky scrapes”
Why you'll pack your bags: The Beasties constantly paid homage to New York City (the three emcees were all born here), mentioning highways, streets and subway lines all over their tracks—as Mike D does here in referencing his subway journey via the High Street station (the A and C lines, for those taking notes) in Brooklyn Heights. It'll get you psyched for the simple act of commuting. “Root Down” refers to a jazz song by Jimmy Smith—which the Beasties sampled here—and to their own roots, firmly planted in NYC. —Christina Parrella
Listen here:
Brooklyn Heights Promenade
The Brooklyn Bridge

New York Groove, Ace Frehley (Ace Frehley, 1978)

For fans of: Transit, uptown
New Yorkiest lyrics: “The quickest way to Harlem”
Why you'll pack your bags: Back in the 1930s, New York City's A express train to Harlem was shiny, new and worthy of celebration. It got as much with this swingin' jazz standard composed by Billy Strayhorn for Duke Ellington's big band. These days, the A still makes the same speedy trip from 59th Street to 125th Street (just eight minutes!), where Harlem's full musical history awaits. Less than two blocks away, you'll find the famed Apollo Theater, where where performers at Amateur Night hope to break in. Other musical stops include jazz club Minton's; soul, jazz and funk spot Shrine Bar and Restaurant; and the Cotton Club—the re-creation of the joint where Duke first made his name in the 1920s—for Sunday brunch.
By the way: You should listen to the Ella Fitzgerald version, too. —Brian Sloan
Listen here:
A Train
The Apollo Theater
125th Street

Shattered, The Rolling Stones (Some Girls, 1978)

For fans of: Fashion
New Yorkiest lyrics: “You better work!”
Why you'll pack your bags: RuPaul got his start in the Meatpacking District in the '80s, starring in student films shot on its then-deserted streets and living atop the Jane West Hotel. A few decades later, the area is bustling and home to big brands like Diane von Furstenberg and Stella McCartney, along with photo studios like Milk and Industria. Head down there and you, too, will feel that “everything looks good on you.” Prove it with a stroll on downtown’s unofficial fashion runway, the High Line. —BS
Listen here:
The High Line
• 14th Street
The Meatpacking District

Schuyler Sisters (from the musical Hamilton, 2015)

For fans of: Folk, solitude
New Yorkiest lyrics: “And here I am / The only living boy in New York”
Why you'll pack your bags: The paradox of feeling alone in a city of more than 8 million people is something almost everyone in New York has felt at some point or another. Paul Simon wrote these lyrics when Art Garfunkel was off shooting Catch-22 in Mexico, making him feel like the “only living boy” in the City. The song captures the moody and reflective—but sometimes liberating—spirit of walking the busy city streets during those lonely times. —AP
Listen here:
Washington Square Park
West Village
Central Park (site of the biggest Simon and Garfunkel concert ever)

42nd Street (from the musical 42nd Street, 1933)

For fans of: Listening to your muse
New Yorkiest lyrics: “There's not much you hear on the radio today / But you can still see a movie or a play”
Why you'll pack your bags: Reed sings about seeing Sam Shepard's Fool for Love, and how it reminds Reed—patron saint of New York cool—of Scorsese's NYC movies. The words of the title, repeated after every other line, take on a double meaning: the City is so full of avant-garde culture that you'll have your pick of things that appeal to you, and artists themselves have the freedom here to operate according to their own vision—just like Lou himself always did with his talk-singing, crunchy riffs and street poetry (here “rhyming” New York, so brilliant, Raging Bull and things they do in one stanza). —AR
Listen here:
The Public Theater
St. Ann’s Warehouse
• Bowery and Bleecker Streets, or any other downtown corners from Mean Streets

Protect Ya Neck,” Wu-Tang Clan (Enter the Wu-Tang, 1993)

For fans of: Crunchy leaves, cozy sweaters, wine
New Yorkiest lyrics: “Lovers that bless the dark / On benches in Central Park / It's autumn in New York / It's good to live it again”
Why you'll pack your bags: New York is one of the most romantic cities in the world, and we'd argue this is more evident in the fall than any other time of year.* That’s when the Central Park foliage changes color and the temperature is perfect for waterfront walks in oversize sweaters. You can find the sophisticated, old-world shade of New York evoked in Billie Holiday’s song year-round in the City's dimly lit jazz clubs, cozy cafés and vintage bookshops. —AP

*Author’s opinion does not reflect the official position of NYC & Company, which maintains that every season in New York is equally wonderful.

Listen here:
Central Park
• Madison Avenue
Any jazz club

Sci-Fi Wasabi, Cibo Matto (Stereo Type A, 1999)

For fans of: Tenacity
New Yorkiest lyrics: “They turned our power down / And drove us underground / But we went right on with the show”
Why you'll pack your bags: This apocalyptic song (the one that starts “I've seen the lights go out on Broadway”) is dark on the surface, but has a rollicking beat and uplifting subtext. Joel—the official New York Bard of Musical Storytelling™—wrote it as a show of defiance during New York City's 1970s economic crisis, when he moved back east from Los Angeles. President Ford may have told New York to “drop dead”—that's how the Daily News put it—but Joel and others stuck around and made sure the City lived to see better times.
Hear for yourself: The song has become a live favorite (it sometimes opens Joel's Garden shows) and a reminder that even when the five boroughs have been down, they're never out. —JZ
Listen here:
Empire State Building
Times Square
The Home Run Apple from Shea Stadium


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