When I started the 350 Jersey Songs series in September, I’m sure one of the first songs I thought of includingwas John Gorka’s dryly funny “I’m From New Jersey.” I’ve long considered it THE quintessential Jersey song.
As do, apparently, a lot of people. Over the last six months, “I’m From New Jersey” hasbeen suggested to me for inclusion in 350 Jersey Songs more times, by far, than anything else. And so I’m scrapping my original plan, which was to write about it as the last of the 350, and am instead going to featureit today, as the song that represents the halfway point on this journey. (For those keeping track, it’s the 175th entry in the series.)
Gorka — whogrew up in Colonia, andsings in a deeply resonant but also somewhat stoicbaritone — doesn’t seem wildly enthusiastic about his state,but doesn’t really put it down, either.“I’m from New Jersey, I don’t expect too much/If the world ended today, I would adjust,” goes thesong’s striking opening verse, establishing resiliency as one of the defining traits of the state’s people.
He goes on to mentionJersey stereotypes (the mafia, girls in shopping malls with big hair) but goes deeper when he sings “It’s not like Texas, there is no mystery, I can’t pretend,” and then wraps it up by returning to the resiliency theme:
New Jersey people, they will surprise you
‘Cause they’re not expected to do too much
They will try harder, they may go further
‘Cause they never think that they are good enough
Gorka, who now lives in Minneapolis, released the song on his1991 album,Jack’s Crows.Check out a more recent studio performance of it, below.
New Jersey celebratedits 350th birthday in 2014. And in the 350 Jersey Songs series, we markedthe 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, clickhere.