When I started the 350 Jersey Songs series in September, I’m sure one of the first songs I thought of including was 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” has been 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 feature it 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 — who grew up in Colonia, and sings in a deeply resonant but also somewhat stoic baritone — 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 the song’s striking opening verse, establishing resiliency as one of the defining traits of the state’s people.
He goes on to mention Jersey 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 his 1991 album, Jack’s Crows Check out a more recent studio performance of it, below.
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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