I keep it no secret that I’m a native New Yorker and proud that I was born and raised in the heart of NYC, Manhattan. It’s easy for me to romanticize the City that I love. It’s easy to see how it has been captured in film and song and written word for hundreds of years and to this day remains a place that I will always call home. Woody Allen, may have put it best in the opening to his 1979 classic “Manhattan”.
From the 16th century sightings by Verrazzano to the modern-day canyons of finance captured in the 1987 film “Wall Street”, the City rings true as the center of world finance. Sure London and Hong Kong regularly lay claim to that title but don’t believe it. In the parlance of Brooklyn, just “fuhgedaboudit”.
As noted, there is a wealth of stories, poems, and songs about New York and it will require more than one post. This first post focuses more on the jazzier tributes to The Big Apple (a phrase coined by jazz men!).
- “I’ll Take Manhattan” – Blossom Dearie – One my favorite tunes about New York. The Rogers & Hart lyrics perfectly evoke the City the way I remember it. “..and tell me what street, compares to Mott Street, in July?” Although Ella’s version is iconic (and perfect) I like Blossom’s version too and thought it deserved some air play.
- “I Happen To Like New York” – Bobby Short. Bobby (1924 – 2005) was a New York treasure and is sorely missed on his bench at The Carlyle on Madison Ave. And no, sorry, Michael Buble, couldn’t carry this guy’s luggage.
- “Pennsylvania 6-5000” – Glenn Miller & Orchestra. You don’t find a lot of songs about the telephone number of a hotel but that’s what Glenn penned here. A little goofy in that “Gee fellas, let’s all work hard” 1940’s fashion but still worth a listen. You can still go and sit in the lobby of the Pennsylvania Hotel but do it soon. It won’t be there for long.
- “Harlem Blues” – Nat King Cole – There’s no denying that Nat had a great voice. He also did some great jazz trio stuff earlier in his career as a pianist. Well worth a look if you’re a fan.
- “On Broadway” – George Benson – Originally a hit for The Drifters (but first recorded – and unreleased – by The Cookies). George’s 1978 version is a great one.