This month marks the 40th anniversary of the first release of the song, “Jersey Girl,” on Tom Waits’ Heartattack and Vine album (which came out on Sept. 9, 1980). To celebrate, I’ve put together 25 videos with different versions of the song, by Waits, Bruce Springsteen and others. You can see them below.
“Jersey Girl” was, of course, written by Waits, in tribute to his wife Kathleen Brennan, who grew up in Morristown, and whom he married in August 1980. Springsteen sang it for the first time in June 1981, at a wedding reception for E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg and his wife Rebecca (who grew up in Tinton Falls). On July 2, 1981, he performed it in concert for the first time, at the first concert ever at the Brendan Byrne Arena in East Rutherford. “This is something special that we learned for you … this is for all the Jersey girls,” he said. And, of course, he has continued to perform it in concert occasionally.
According to the authoritative reference site, brucebase.wikidot.com, he has performed it 66 times over the years, most recently with Patti Scialfa at the “Jersey 4 Jersey” telethon for the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund.
Springsteen made some changes from Waits’ original. Instead of “whores on 8th Avenue,” in the first verse, he sings about “the girls out on the avenue.” He also adds a verse of his own, adapted from “Party Lights,” an outtake from the sessions for his The River album:
I see you on the street and you look so tired
Girl, I know that job you got leaves you so uninspired
When I come by to take you out to eat
You’re lying all dressed up on the bed, baby, fast asleep
Go in the bathroom, put your makeup on
We’re gonna take that little brat of yours and drop her off at your mom’s
I know a place where the dancing’s free
Now baby, won’t you come with me
Here are the videos, in chronological order:
The original, from Waits’ 1980 album Heartattack and Vine.
Springsteen’s third concert performance of “Jersey Girl,” at the Brendan Byrne Arena in East Rutherford on July 9, 1981, was included as the B-side of “Cover Me” in 1984 and in the Live 1975/85 boxed set.
Waits sings it with Springsteen and the E Street Band at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena on Aug. 24, 1981. Springsteen tells the crowd before the number, “When I heard it, I remember it was one of those songs I said, ‘Well, I wish I’d wrote that.’ ”
With the Other Band, plus guest drummer Max Weinberg, at the Brendan Byrne Arena in 1993.
A great version by Springsteen, guesting with Clarence Clemons & the Red Bank Rockers at Tradewinds in Sea Bright in 1993. This video includes the entire appearance but “Jersey Girl” starts at the 9:10 mark.
Dave Van Ronk, a longtime mainstay of the New York folk scene, recorded a gentle, dreamy version for his 1994 album To All My Friends in Far-Flung Places.
A sultry, jazzy version by Holly Cole in 1995.
Here is a wonderful version by Waits, from his 1999 “VH1 Storytellers” special.
Actor Kevin Bacon and his brother Michael, who perform music together as The Bacon Brothers, recorded “Jersey Girl” for their 1999 album Getting There.
A nice, understated rendition by Bon Jovi. This is an outtake from their “VH1 Storytellers” taping in 2000. At the end, it sounds like someone yells out, “That’s not a Bruce song.” But Jon Bon Jovi must have misheard, because he jokes (as if the person was saying it was a Bruce song), “No, you moron, that’s a Tom Waits song.”
Springsteen with Brian Kirk & the Jirks at Donovan’s Reef in Sea Bright on Sept. 3, 2001.
Country singer Hal Ketchum recorded “Jersey Girl” for his 2008 album Father Time.
Melissa Etheridge at the Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank in 2009.
Pearl Jam, performing the song in 2010 at the Prudential Center in Newark. Eddie Vedder leaves in the original “whores” line and, after it’s over, says “Nobody loves Bruce more than I do, but that’s a Tom Waits song,” presumably in response to someone yelling out “Bruce!” After the song, there’s some sort of equipment problem as the band gets ready for its next song, and Vedder says, “This would never happen at a Bruce Springsteen concert.”
A very Waits-ish vocal performance by the British singer Ian Siegal, from a concert in Budapest.
Some comic relief, from Tim Burger.
Chris Martin does a solo version at a Coldplay concert at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford on July 16, 2016.
Springsteen and the E Street Band at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford on Aug. 23, 2016.
Two days later at MetLife Stadium — this time, with an onstage marriage proposal!
A theatrical interpretation! From the Romanian TV competition show “Vocea României (The Voice of Romania).”
Raul Malo of The Mavericks performs it with near-operatic power at New Hope Winery in 2018.
“Jersey Girl” with a dance beat, by Renee Cologne.
Corinne Bailey Rae’s cover was included on the 2019 compilation, Come On Up to the House: Women Sing Waits.
A jaunty version by VickiKristinaBarcelona, from their debut album, Pawn Shop Radio.
Bruce Springsteen and Patti Scialfa sing it on the “Jersey 4 Jersey” telethon for the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund on April 22, 2020.
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