‘Over on the Jersey Side,’ Billy Murray

The sheet music to "Over on the Jersey Side."

The sheet music to “Over on the Jersey Side.”

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.

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8 thoughts on “‘Over on the Jersey Side,’ Billy Murray

  1. Aloha Jay,

    I think we met one time at a Springsteen concert that I attended with our mutual friend Wally Stroby during one of my visits back to my home state. I would suggest that you need to include a song by NJ icon Uncle Floyd. If I could, I would recommend his song “Deep In The Heart of Jersey” which is available on his out of print “The Uncle Floyd Show” soundtrack released on vinyl. I have converted my vinyl copy to digital if you need a copy.

  2. I think the line is actually “Hymies”, not Heinies”, making it even less politically correct today.

    Also, the Statue of Liberty is actually “ashamed to look the other way”, which is much funnier than “it seems to look the other way”.

    Groucho Marx sings a verse of this song on a memorable episode of “What’s My Line?” in which he practically brought the show crashing down.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6wxrLjJobM

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    • I considered that song but ultimately rejected it, because it doesn’t really say anything about the state. I mean, you could substitute any state name for “New Jersey,” and the song really wouldn’t change.

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  5. I keep imagining this song being reworked into a tourism jingle like

    🎶Jersey, Jersey, just think of all the fun we’ll have in Jersey
    There’s lots to see and lots to do
    We’ll see the tigers at the zoo
    It’s all a great big hullabaloo
    Over on the Jersey Jersey Jersey over on the Jersey side!🎶

    I know the lyrics are completely generic and could use improvement but anyway there really is much more to your state than that stretch of highway from Newark airport to the Lincoln Tunnel that gives the state its undeserved reputation.

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