As a touring musician, Chuck Berry undoubtedly spent a lot of time traveling on the New Jersey Turnpike, and actually set one of his early hits, “You Can’t Catch Me,” on that road, imagining driving in a “brand new airmobile” with “hideaway wings.”
“New Jersey Turnpike in the wee, wee hours/I was rollin’ slowly ’cause of drizzlin’ showers,” he sings. Still, even at this slow speed, he’s moving too fast for the police, who try to catch up with him.
“So I let out my wings and then I blew my horn/Bye bye, New Jersey, I’ve become airborne.”
Berry lip-synched the song, and gave movie audiences a taste of his kinetic stage presence, in the 1956 film, “Rock, Rock Rock!” (see below).
Bruce Springsteen echoed Berry’s lyrics to “You Can’t Catch Me” on two tracks of his 1982 album Nebraska, “State Trooper” and “Open All Night.”
New Jersey celebrated its 350th birthday from Sept. 2014 to Sept. 2015. And in the 350 Jersey Songs series, we marked the occasion by posting 350 songs — one a day, for almost a year — that have something to do with the state, its musical history, or both. The complete list is here.