“Who needs a house out in Hackensack?” Billy Joel famously sang in his 1977 hit, “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song).” He could have used just about any city name in that line, of course, but “Hackensack” has a ring to it that he evidently found irresistible.
He’s not alone. New Jersey cities such as Asbury Park and Hoboken may been the locations for more music history. But Hackensack has a long track record of being favored by songwriters — as I was reminded by Fountains of Wayne’s tribute to its late band member, Adam Schlesinger, on last night’s Jersey 4 Jersey fundraising show. With Sharon Van Etten joining surviving band members, they performed a new version of their 2003 song “Hackensack,” co-written by Schlesinger.
Below are two versions of Fountains of Wayne’s “Hackensack” (their own original recording, plus one by Katy Perry); along with Tom Rush’s “If I Never Get Back to Hackensack”; the 1920s novelty song “Back in Hackensack, New Jersey” (featuring lines such as “I wanna go back to a black little shack, back in Hackensack, New Jersey”); Thelonious Monk’s instrumental “Hackensack”; and the Christmas carol parody, “O Little Town of Hackensack,” written by the classical musician and humorist, P.D.Q. Bach (Peter Schickele).
I’ve also included Steely Dan’s “Daddy Don’t Live in That New York City No More” because of its lines, “Driving like a fool out to Hackensack/Drinking his dinner from a paper sack/He says I gotta see a joker and I’ll be right back.” And “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song),” which has probably been heard by more people than all the other songs combined.
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