Raised in Texas and based in Nashville for much of her career, Nanci Griffith would seem to be a singer-songwriter very unlikely to pen a song set in New Jersey. But she did, and I was reminded of it last night, when Maura and Pete Kennedy sang “Love Wore a Halo (Back Before the War)” at the Outpost in the Burbs in Montclair.
“Love was an anchor on the Jersey Shore,” sings Griffith in this upbeat, almost rollicking song from her 1988 Little Love Affairs album, an affectionate portrait of a couple from a bygone era. They’re Jersey Shore hotel owners. He’s also a Navy Seabee, in the Philippines, and she’s back home, running numbers to make a (very good, as it happens) supplementary living. He eventually comes back, and life goes on, very happily, it seems.
”Love wore a halo back before the war,” sings Griffith, “when the men loved the women and the women knew what men were for.”
At one point, Griffith was writing a novel by the same name, and these were her main two characters. In 1988, she told the New York Times that the characters were loosely based on her parents: ” ’50s beatniks who became responsible Texans,” she said.
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.