(Editor’s note: When Palisadian Alan Eisenstock is not researching and writing one of his nonfiction books (18 thus far!), he pursues what he calls “a crazy labor of love side project” that he started in mid-March: sending a weekly Covid-themed playlist of songs to his family and friends. These playlists (which can be downloaded on Spotify https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4wN82GHIlYRq1iXl1Y1eWo?si=kFWMaEHJT1C92s3cW_PcIA) span rock ‘n’ roll and pop music from the 1950s to 2020, and Eisenstock adds one or two lines of commentary about each song that is clever, amusing and informative. His first list of favorite New York City songs ran last month–this is his second of all-time “Big Apple” favorites.)
- “Lullaby of Broadway” Ella Fitzgerald. Lady Ella sings this Harry Warren/Al Dubin classic from 1935. She’s also called the First Lady of Song. We dated briefly.
- “Living For The City” Stevie Wonder. Stevie’s story song about a kid moving from Mississippi to NYC, finding discrimination and plenty of tzuris. Stevie sings and plays a million instruments.
- “New York State of Mind” Billy Joel. Billy wrote this song when he returned to NYC after living in L.A.for 3 years. Many call this the quintessential NY song. Billy sang it in 2014 with Barbra Streisand.
- “I Guess the Lord Must Be In New York City” Harry Nilsson. Brooklyn-born Nilsson wrote this for the movie “Midnight Cowboy,” although the song never appeared in the film. It did appear in “You’ve Got Mail,” starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. So it wasn’t a total loss.
- “Up on The Roof” The Drifters. NYC R&B and doo-wop group. 1963 smash written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King. “There’s room enough for two up on the roof…”
- “The Only Living Boy In New York” Simon and Garfunkel. Paul wrote this emotional goodbye song to Art as he went off to co-star in the film Catch-22, leaving Paul alone in NYC. He calls Art “Tom” in reference to their original name, Tom and Jerry.
- “The Rising” Bruce Springsteen. Bruce wrote this in 2001 after 9/11. This stirring song won 2 Grammys. The E-Street Band backs up with a fury.
- “Empire State Of Mind (Part II) Broken Down” Alicia Keys. Classically trained pianist and the voice from “The Voice” sings this emotional song.
- “Leaving New York” R.E.M. Athens, Georgia trio met at the University of Georgia. Michael Stipe wrote this as a love song to NY, his second home. Man, his voice.
- “Myriad Harbour” The New Pornographers. Band formed in 1997 in Vancouver, B.C. This song from their great 2007 album, “Challengers.” I was obsessed with this band. Neko Case sings lead & Kurt Dahle destroys me on the drums.
- “New York Minute” Don Henley. From 1989 off his album “The End of Innocence.” Don left the Eagles but had plenty of help from Toto members and others. Poll question: whose voice do you prefer Henley’s or Stipe’s?
- “Rhinestone Cowboy” Glen Campbell. Giant crossover hit for singer/TV star Campell in 1975. He sings of “cowboys” who hustle in Times Square. I played a show-stopping singing rootin-tootin sheriff in the Holyoke (MA) Community Theater production of Paint Your Wagon.
- “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” Deep Blue Something. What, you were expecting “Moon River?” Nah. Alt-rock band formed by two brothers in Denton, Texas write and sing this catchy song about doomed lovers looking for something in common. Dance!
- “New York” The Milk Carton Kids. Folk duo Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan from the Eagle Rock section of L.A. I LOVE the Kids. They are today’s Simon & Garfunkel. They need to be famous. Spread the word.
- “Across 110th Street” Bobby Womack. Called “The Poet,” R&B, soul great, former backup singer to Sam Cooke, wrote this in 1972 for the film of the same name. Also featured in the Tarantino film, “Jackie Brown.”
- “Broadway” Old 97’s. Call them alt-country, this Dallas band is one of my favorites. I’ve seen them and Rhett Miller, their frontman, at least a dozen times. Unbelievable live.
- “Life In The City” The Lumineers. Another of my favorite alt/indie bands. These guys are from Denver and this is from their latest album, “III.”
- “New York State Of Mind” Brad Mehldau. Born in Florida, raised in West Hartford, CT. Prolific jazz pianist plays this gorgeous version of Billy Joel’s song, from his latest album, “Suite: April 2020.” I wanted you to hear the contrast.
- “Theme From New York, New York” Frank Sinatra. Kander and Ebb wrote this for the Scorsese film, the song performed by Liza Minelli. The Chairman of the Board’s version has become the signature song of NYC.
So, goodnight to the city that never sleeps. Have to say, I love this eclectic playlist.
Oh, some advice… Don’t Forget to Disinfect and… PLAY IT LOUD!
The link again:
I didn’t date Ella Fitzgerald. She turned me down.
I did not appear as the singing rootin-tootin sheriff in the Holyoke Community Theater production of Paint Your Wagon. There is no Holyoke Community Theater as far as I know.. I have no idea if there is a sheriff in Paint Your Wagon, though there really should be.