Music has a unique power to define a place or time for us, providing a soundtrack to a certain period in our lives or a place we used to know. There are bands and songs that take us back to childhood car rides or high school dances, late nights in a dorm room or unpacking boxes in a new apartment, the cobblestone streets of Prague and a certain rocky beach in the south of France. And so when we were coming up with the questions for our Just Folks questionnaire, we knew we wanted to ask people about the songs that held meaning for them. New York makes a lot of appearances in lyrics or titles, so some of the associations were easy — Zelda loves “On Broadway,” Scout has a soft spot for Billy Joel, we both know all the words to “NYC”— but we wanted to know about the more personal connections. Which songs define your New York? Here’s what you said.
I and Love and You: The Avett Brothers – Stephanie Walker, from Austin, Texas. “It makes me think of New York mostly because the lyrics are literally ‘Brooklyn, Brooklyn, take me in,’ but I also really identify with the references to the sacrifices one sometimes makes in moving here and trying to make it work. The things you miss but also the things you want to move on from.”
So Far Around The Bend: The National – Anita Badejo, from Mountain Home, Arkansas (via Lubbock, Texas via Debrecen, Hungary). “I’ve always listened to this song when flying back to NYC. The line ‘There is no leaving New York,’ slays me.”
New York: The Milk Carton Kids – Jennifer Harlan, from Louisville, Kentucky. “It’s slow and it’s sweet and it’s sad. It’ll break your heart but it’s also beautiful, and you can’t seem to tear yourself away.”
Empire State of Mind: Jay-Z feat. Alicia Keys – Joanna Futral, from Atlanta, Georgia and Katherine Hurt, from Pikeville, Kentucky. “It came out the year I moved to New York, so that’s my jam. It makes me emotional every time I hear it.”
Working For the MTA: Justin Townes Earle – Luke, from Sevierville, Tennessee. “We saw him at City Winery during my early days here; plus, like me, he very much identifies with Tennessee and moving to New York from there.”
Famous Flower of Manhattan: The Avett Brothers – Katie Warden, from Deland, Florida, and Kelsey Goldman, from Louisville, Kentucky. “I think I always connected with the narrative — that a little bit of beauty and nature could exist anywhere, even between the cracks of Manhattan concrete.”