13 Of The Best Songs About New Jersey: Garden State Playlist

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Written by Laura Macmillan
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With its charming shore towns, beautiful hiking trails, busy metropolitan areas, and historical districts, there’s clearly lots about the Garden State that seems to inspire songwriters. From Springsteen to Bon Jovi, New Jersey has been the backdrop for some of the most memorable music in history.

And in this post, we’re going to take a look at our playlist of what we think are the 13 best songs about New Jersey. Enjoy!

1. “Jersey Girl” by Tom Waits

Tom Waits may be from California, but he happened to release one of the most well-known songs about New Jersey.

The 1980 hit single “Jersey Girl” talks about a New York City boy who has fallen in love with a girl from Jersey. He plans to take a trip across the Hudson River to see her.

The boy has some quintessential Jersey activities in mind, like heading down to the shore and going to the carnival.

Anyone who knows a Jersey girl knows just how much of a breath of fresh air they can be. That fresh air seems to be what this city boy longs for.

2. “I’m From New Jersey” by John Gorka

In 1991, folk singer John Gorka released his song, “I’m From New Jersey.” The singer tells the listener about how growing up in the state has shaped the person that he is today. John Gorka is from Woodbridge Township, in the northeast of New Jersey, so he is a reliable source.

The fun tune touches on some common Jersey experiences. This includes an abundance of allusions to the mob, girls with big hair in shopping malls, and the iconic Garden State Parkway.

Most importantly, Gorka proudly declares how Jersey gave him an unmatched sense of resilience.

3. “Hackensack” by Fountains of Love

The 2003 song “Hackensack” by the American rock band “Fountains of Love” centers around a man from Hackensack. He sings to someone with whom he grew up in the town but has since left for pastures new (with the song speculating that it might be Los Angeles).

The narrator tells them he’ll be waiting for them in Hackensack, should they ever choose to return home. That longing is central to the chorus, which is both hopeful and bittersweet.

Hackensack is a charming, densely populated town in northern New Jersey popular with New Yorkers and New Jerseyans alike. The city is pretty well-known to start, and this popular song further ensures that.

4. “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)” by Bruce Springsteen

In this 1973 rock tune, Bruce Springsteen pays homage to his home state, as he often does. He sings to a girl named Sandy about Asbury Park, which is likely the state’s most famous shore town.

The lyrics reference the pinball museum on the boardwalk, the people along the beach and in the casinos, and local businesses that all New Jerseyans know.

This Jersey-centric tune is one of the best songs from “the Boss.” Springsteen is possibly the most famous Jersey-born artist, and this song captures his nostalgia for the state very well. 

5. “Raise Your Hands” by Bon Jovi

Bon Jovi is another one of the greatest musicians to come out of the Garden State. He grew up in the north, in a town called Perth Amboy.

In his 1986 rock song “Raise your Hands,” Bon Jovi mentions New Jersey several times over as he hypes up the crowd.

This song is a call to action for everyone to let their feelings go and raise their hands across the world, with New Jersey getting particular recognition.

Bon Jovi even ends the song with a reference to the small town of Salem, New Jersey, showing that his home state is always on his mind.

6. “Jersey Bounce” by Ella Fitzgerald

Anyone who knows New Jersey is well-aware of its musical soul. While Ella Fitzgerald is from Virginia, she captures this spirit with aplomb in her 1961 jazz hit, “Jersey Bounce.”

Its lyrics emphasize that no matter where someone is in Jersey City, they will always feel the rhythm of the Jersey bounce (from Journal Square to Uptown and Downtown). 

The song promises that if you’re not feeling great, all you need to do is head somewhere musical to let the Jersey bounce improve your spirits.

The lively, upbeat song was written in the 1940s and became a popular nickname for aircraft serving with the US Air Force during World War II. 

7. “Wildwood Days” by Bobby Rydell

Wildwood is a popular New Jersey vacation spot, with hundreds of thousands flocking to its beaches and boardwalks every summer. In his 1963 song, Bobby Rydell expresses the allure of a Wildwood summer vacation. The artist is from Philadelphia, a city whose population is known to take an annual trip to Wildwood.

He talks about heading down to the shore when school finally ends and getting to fall asleep on the beach at night. Rydel goes on to happily talk up the town’s party scene and how every night is like a Saturday night. 

It has since become the city’s official anthem and has even featured in commercials about Wildwood. A mural of the singer was unveiled on its famed boardwalk in 2014.

8. “I Like Jersey Best” by John Pizzarelli

John Pizzarelli hails from Paterson, New Jersey. With his 1995 song, “I Like Jersey Best,” he cements his fondness for his home state. His song namedrops the New Jersey Turnpike, Rutgers University, the Pinelands, and sports teams.

But Pizzarelli doesn’t stop there as he also sings about the state’s charming establishments and covers all of its most well-known towns from north to south.

The artist repeatedly drives in how much the state means to him. He says everyone else can have Miami, but he will always prefer New Jersey. 

9. “Over on the Jersey Side” by Bill Murray

This next song has a different take on the state. Released in 1909, “Over on the Jersey Side” pokes fun at New Jersey and the people who live there.

While it may not paint Jersey in a great light, it is a light-hearted depiction of how the state is seen by many.

The tune even mentions the Statue of Liberty, which Jerseyans insist is the property of NJ, not New York. Murray goes on to say that while she might belong to New Jersey, she faces New York. 

10. “Open All Night” by Bruce Springsteen

Although Bruce Springsteen’s 1982 song “Open All Night” comes from his album Nebraska, it is about New Jersey. More specifically, it is about driving on the New Jersey Turnpike to see someone he cares about. 

Springsteen mentions recognizable sights, including the industrial skyline that paints the turnpike and the occasional pit stop. He even talks about struggling to stay awake while driving on the road at night—an ordeal familiar to many.

While the New Jersey Turnpike can be troublesome, it is an unmistakable Jersey adventure.

11. “Jersey Boy” by Eddie Rabbitt

The 1990 country song “Jersey Boy” is Eddie Rabbitt’s way of telling a Jersey boy’s story. His parents are Irish immigrants who settle down in New Jersey.

The narrator speaks about the privileges of growing up in the state. He delves into some North Jersey-specific memories, like Palisades Park and the George Washington Bridge.

Rabbitt’s song stresses the importance of belonging. So, while the boy in the song heads off to Nashville to make himself famous as a country singer, his heart and identity will always center on being a Jersey boy.

12. “Atlantic City” by The Band

In 1993, The Band released their hit single, “Atlantic City.” In the song, the narrator tells the listener to meet him in Atlantic City. He mentions the city’s promenade and its iconic gambling. 

Gambling appears to be foremost on his mind, and that gets him riled thinking about the city as he expresses frustration at always being on the losing end. Anyone who has taken a trip to the shore knows that this attitude fits perfectly with the city’s energy.

13. “Palisades Park” by Freddy Cannon

In 1960, Freddy Cannon sang, “Palisades Park.” While this is the name of a borough in New Jersey, it is also the name of an amusement park that used to exist in the same area.

Cannon focuses on the latter, with lyrics that mention going on rides, eating at hot dog stands, and dancing around.

Palisades Park is a special memory for many people who grew up in the neighborhood, and Cannon captures the nostalgia with a sweet, reflective quality.

Summing Up Our List Of New Jersey Songs

Some people argue over whether or not Central Jersey exists, while others debate whether the correct term is “pork roll” or “Taylor ham.”

However, if there is one thing that New Jerseyans can agree on, it is that the state has inspired some beautiful music.

Whether it is by Jersey-born artists or people who were charmed by the state later in life, each of these songs about New Jersey shows the multitudes of the state.

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Laura has over 12 years experience teaching both classical and jazz saxophone and clarinet. She now resides in California where she works as a session and live performer.