If you’re from the United States, should you be feeling particularly proud of your home location, you can impress those around you by learning how to play your state song… unless you’re from New Jersey. The Garden State (so nicknamed because of the fruits and vegetables it produced for neighboring states) is the only state that hasn’t managed to adopt a state song. It has tried, on multiple occasions, but the efforts have rarely made it past a vote of the state legislature.
On at least one occasion, it did.
WPLJ is now a Christian music station, but through the 1970s it was the most influential rock station in the New York City area. In 1979, dj Carol Miller read a newspaper article about New Jersey’s lack of a state song and did what on-air talent often does: she made a joke out of it.
Bruce Springsteen was in the full bloom of fame in the area, with a debut album that proclaimed his association with New Jersey prominently in the title: Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. He’d had a string of hits on the radio, but none was more popular in the tri-state area than Born to Run. It had been a staple for rock stations, and particularly WPLJ, since its release in 1975. Carol Miller decided that it should be the state song of New Jersey.
She proceeded to address it by that title every time she played it. That might have been the end of the issue, except that one of the staffers at the station, Robert Visotcky , thought it wasn’t a bad idea. After all, the song had demonstrated staying power and The Boss was firmly established as a New Jersey singer more than Frank Sinatra had been before or Bon Jovi would eventually become.
More importantly, the song was beloved and backing it might earn a politician some brownie points with the youth vote… and when Robert Visotcky pointed this out to his father, state assemblyman (the equivalent of a representative) Richard Visotcky, the legislator got to work.
In 1980, Assembly Concurrent Resolution No. 121 was brought to the floor of the New Jersey General Assembly. It proposed that the song “Born to Run” be adopted as a state song… but only with qualifications. Specifically:
That thus Legislature declares Bruce Springsteen to be the New Jersey Pop Music Ambassador to America, and calls upon the young people of all ages throughout New Jersey to adopt his song “Born to Run” as the unofficial rock theme of our State’s youth.
The resolution passed easily on a voice vote.
It then hung in the Senate, where it failed to receive passage within the year and thus never made it to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law.
The rationale for that decision, it is generally agreed, is that someone in the Senate bothered to listen to the song, or at least read the lyrics, and decided that it was best not to lend approval to a song that described their state with a description like:
Oh, baby this town rips the bones from your backBorn to Run, Bruce Springsteen
It’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap
We gotta get out while we’re young
Not the best image to portray. But, if you ask some New Jerseyans, possibly appropriate.
Question of the night: What’s an “anthem” song you enjoy?