100 best NYC songs: Nos. 60–51

Watch music videos for iconic NYC songs by Run-DMC, Steely Dan, the Magnetic Fields and more.

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60. Run-D.M.C., "Christmas in Hollis" (1987)

This track epitomizes that elusive rarity: an NYC hip-hop classic that also functions as a mood-setter. Over a horn-heavy strut that Rick Rubin lifted from Clarence Carter's suggestive "Back Door Santa," the affable old-school heroes spin a Queens-set holiday yarn featuring a rich Santa Claus, an "ill reindeer" and a soul-food banquet. Local color is scarcer than you'd think, but Run-D.M.C.'s shout-out to the titular 'hood adds the perfect shot of giddy specificity.—Hank Shteamer

Christmas In Hollis - A Very Special Christmas, Vol. 1

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59. Steely Dan, "Daddy Don't Live in That New York City No More" (1975)

Few songs illustrate the quicksand-like pull of the New York demimonde better than this wailing, super-polished blues-rock cut. It's one of the few Becker-Fagen numbers to actually namecheck the city, despite their shared area upbringing. Our narrator is an incorrigible slimeball, swearing that his hustling days are behind him and betraying himself with each denial. A stripper-pole grooves throbs in the background—a reminder that for the shadily inclined, NYC's tendency to never sleep is more curse than blessing.—Hank Shteamer

Daddy Don't Live in that New York City No More - Katy Lied

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58. Kool G Rap and DJ Polo, "Streets of New York" (1990)

The godfather of mafioso rap, New York's Kool G Rap can spin crime yarns with the vividness of a Scorsese film. The Corona, Queens, native details a crack-era NYC that's so gritty ("Dope fiends are leaning for morphine/The TV screens follow the homicide scenes"), it's unrecognizable to anyone whose introduction to the city came after Giuliani.—Jesse Serwer




57. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, "New York City Serenade" (1973)

Few of the songs the New Jersey workingman's bard penned about New York City are this diffuse—directness would come much, much later. But Springsteen's cinematically epic thunder, which would flower two years later on Born to Run, is evident in this wordy, string-enriched ballad from his early Waits-ish troubadour period. "Serenade" is part of an album filled with NYC nods, improbably issued on September 11.—Steve Smith

New York City Serenade - The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle

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56. Laura Nyro, "New York Tendaberry" (1969)

On the stark title track of Nyro's third album, the singer-songwriter offers a dark hymn of urban self-renewal. Accompanying herself on piano, she begins in a bleak space ("the past is a blue note inside me"), but builds to an impassioned swell: "Sidewalk and pigeon/You look like a city/But you feel like religion to me."—Adam Feldman

New York Tendaberry (Album Version) - Stoned Soul Picnic: The Best of Laura Nyro

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55. Nina Hagen, "New York/N.Y." (1983)

With her glistening sheen of new-wave war paint and her fluorescent Tesla-coil mane—not to mention that voice, which could veer from a guttural growl to a faux-Wagnerian shriek in a heartbeat—the East Germany--born Nina Hagen's '80s output was probably a bit more pop-goth than pop-Gotham. But in 1983, this postdisco ode to NYC's downtown nightlife (sample lyric: "Shaking our hair to the disco rap/AM/PM, Pyramid, Roxy, Mudd Club, Danceteria") was close to inescapable on the city's underground dance floors.—Bruce Tantum

New York New York - Nina Hagen and Karl Rucker Live In Concert

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54. Boogie Down Productions, "South Bronx" (1986)

MC Shan's "The Bridge" (see No. 53) irked KRS-One so much that he made two classic responses to it on Boogie Down Productions' debut album, Criminal Minded: "The Bridge Is Over" and "South Bronx." The latter, with its unforgettable call-and-response hook ("The South Bronx, the South-South Bronx!"), still stands as one of the borough's signature anthems more than a quarter of a century later.—Jesse Serwer

Play "South Bronx" on Spotify



53. MC Shan and Marley Marl, "The Bridge" (1986)

When MC Shan told the story of "how it all got started way back when," the Queensbridge rapper fired the opening salvo in what's known in hip-hop lore as the "Bridge Wars." After Boogie Down Productions leader KRS-One misinterpreted the song's sentiment as an affront to the Bronx's hip-hop sovereignty, a years-long volley of battle raps between BDP and Shan's Juice Crew followed. But no dis track could subdue the raw power of Shan's distorted delivery and Marley Marl's monstrous beat.—Jesse Serwer

The Bridge (Original 12



52. The Magnetic Fields, "The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side" (1999)

This swinging love song by Stephin Merritt is about an ugly dude who has some fugly wheels—but hey, at least he's got wheels. The tone is pure Magnetic Fields: sweet tempo, self-deprecation and a dash of nervy wit that is unique to Merritt. He may have left us for Los Angeles, but the attitude on this track is all Gotham.—Sharon Steel

The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side - 69 Love Songs (Box Set)

Play "The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side" on Spotify



51. Andrew W.K., "I Love NYC" (2001)

Look past the fist-pumping refrain and E Street Band--goes-techno overture and what you've got is a pop puzzler that could have sprung only from the mind of Andrew Wilkes Krier. One listen to that guitar-synth blast, and it's clear that W.K.'s love for his adopted hometown borders on religious zeal.—Hank Shteamer

I Love NYC - I Get Wet

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100–91 | 90–81 | 80–71 | 70–61 | 60–51 | 50–41 | 40–31 | 30–21 | 20–11 | 10–1


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