100 best NYC songs

The greatest tunes about Gotham. Hear them all and watch exclusive performances

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For as long as there’s been a New York City, Gotham has inspired odes to its majesty and danger, its punk vitality and all-embracing spirit. Love it or hate it, if you’re a musician living here, sooner or later you’re going to write about it.

It was in that spirit that we set about assembling our list of the 100 best NYC songs. Our jury of New York-proud experts—TONY Music staffers Sophie Harris, Marley Lynch, Hank Shteamer and Steve Smith; features editor Sharon Steel; Theater associate editor and cabaret maven Adam Feldman; Nightlife editor Bruce Tantum; and freelance hip-hop expert Jesse Serwer—combined longtime New Yorkers and more recent arrivals drawn here by the city’s ineffable allure. For more than a month, we searched far and wide for well-worn anthems and deserving obscurities alike.

One fundamental rule—a song had to be specifically and explicitly about some aspect of NYC, be it good, bad or ugly—led to some startling omissions: Whither Patti Smith, Blondie and Talking Heads? Weeks of heated deliberation and occasionally heartbreaking cuts followed as we parsed lyrics and contexts; even seeming no-brainers like “Positively 4th Street” got voted off the island as we pondered relative merits to wrestle out a ranking.

The result is a fascinating, illuminating and (we’re sure) potentially infuriating tally of the 100 best songs about the city we call home. We invite you to dig in, listen hard and tell us what we got right or wrong.—Steve Smith, Music editor

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5 comments
Kevin
Kevin

In reference to your top 100 NYC songs it seems to me at least four are missing: 1.) Uptown, by the Chambers Brothers - A funky finger poppin song littered with references to the New York club scene in the 1960's. "If a taxi won't take me I'll catch a train" . Perhaps I missed it but it's got to be on the list if Living for the City is. 2.) American City Suite - Cashman and West. Three songs in one paying homage to New York City old and new 3. ) Lights of Broadway - Bee Gees. Just as god as Stay'n Alive although more to the point just not used in the movie. But the real sin is that you left out "I'll take Manhattan" by Rodgers and Hart. Again, maybe I missed it but if you put in Rapsody in Blue, which was used for the L.A. Olympics, how could you leave R and H out. It was also in the bio movie "Wordds and Music" and is more about NYC that Billy Joel's NY State of Mind. It should have been in the top ten or at least 20, but perhaps I missed it. I really liked some of your other choices and will bone up on some of the more recent entries. Over all it's a great article, with those exceptions. Thank you. Kevin J.

Steve
Steve

I can't for the life of me figure out how you could have left Cashman & Wests' "American City Suite" off this list.