You can’t tell the story of New Jersey without mentioning the fact that people from many other states look down on us. And with that in mind — and not because I agree with this song’s sentiment in the least (or approve of the derogatory reference to Germans as “Heinies,” who live in “the land of sauerkraut”) — I include as today’s pick for the 350 Jersey Songs series, “Over on the Jersey Side.”
This song, recorded by Billy Murray in 1909 (and written by Jack Norworth, who co-wrote “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”), is one big anti-Jersey joke.
New Jerseyans, sings Murray, are so ignorant they seem to be living in another world: “That Taft is our new president, they haven’t heard that yet.”
“I wonder who invented poor old Jersey,” he muses at one point. “The rest of this I hate to tell/But I would rather live in …,” he snaps at another, letting the listener fill in the word, for comic effect.
He saves his biggest put-down last: “The Statue of Liberty is near New Jersey/But the statue faces down the bay/It seems to look the other way.”
Do I endorse this song? Of course not. But I have to say, in comparison with the five songs currently being considered to be made official state songs, which I wrote about earlier today, it’s a lot more fun to listen to. I think a real New Jerseyan would rather laugh at a joke at his own expense than endure a bland, Pollyanna-ish attempt to say something positive about the state. Or maybe that’s just me.
New Jersey celebrated its 350th birthday in 2014. And in the 350 Jersey Songs series, we marked the occasion by posting 350 songs — one a day, from September 2014 to September 2015 — that have something to do with the state, its musical history, or both. To see the entire list, click here.