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by Jason Gubbels

October 31, 2013

Musical Tour: New Jersey

by Jason Gubbels  |  October 31, 2013

It's been one year since Hurricane Sandy slammed ashore in New Jersey, devastating the state from the Jersey Shore to the Hudson River. On the occasion of such a sad anniversary, it seems appropriate to offer a tribute to one of the best things about this great state: the music.

Densely populated and largely urban/suburban New Jersey offers a cross-section of the full breadth of American music, with virtually no style left unrepresented. Jazz fans know Jersey lays claim to early stride piano masters James P. Johnson (New Brunswick) and Willie "The Lion" Smith (Harrison); modernist giants Count Basie (Red Bank) and Sarah Vaughan (Newark); post-bop artists as diverse as Bill Evans and David S. Ware (both from Plainfield); and, of course, Frank Sinatra (Hoboken). Pop singers from Connie Francis to Rick Nelson called Jersey home, as does the entire royal family of Warwick (sisters Dionne and Dee Dee, plus aunt Cissy Houston and her daughter Whitney). And do you even have to ask about Jersey rock 'n' roll? Fuhgeddaboudit -- from Bruce Springsteen and Donald Fagen to Bon Jovi and Yo La Tengo, the state's got guitars covered.

There are even country stars (Juice Newton) and bluegrass icons (David Grisman) rubbing shoulders with hip-hop pioneers Queen Latifah and Naughty By Nature (The Roots may hail from nearby Philly, but they have mad respect for Jersey, as heard on their showcase for Newark native and state poet laureate Amiri Baraka). And make room for honorary residents The Isley Brothers (Ohio-born, but took to their adopted state so well they named their record label T-Neck), Carole King (the Manhattanite penned "Pleasant Valley Sunday" after moving to West Orange) and rock 'n' roll believers Low Cut Connie (if "Big Thighs, NJ" isn't an actual Jersey location, you can almost imagine it nestled somewhere between Seaside Heights and Brigantine). And there's plenty more in our Garden State playlist. Give it a listen and you might think you can see why New Jersey is the only state lacking a state song -- maybe there's just too much great music to choose from.

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