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Music of New Jersey

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Title: Music of New Jersey  
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Subject: New Jersey, Music of New Jersey, Crime in New Jersey, Delaware River Region, Pascack Valley
Collection: Music of New Jersey, Music of United States Subdivisions, Musicians from New Jersey
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Music of New Jersey

The American state of New Jersey is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic region.


  • Official symbols 1
  • Native American music 2
  • Classical and Opera music 3
  • Popular music 4
  • Jazz 5
  • Folk and Bluegrass Music 6
  • Hip-Hop 7
  • Hard Rock and Heavy Metal 8
  • Punk and Hardcore 9
  • Venues and Events 10
  • Audio broadcasting 11
  • See also 12
  • References 13
  • Sources 14
  • External links 15

Official symbols

New Jersey does not have a state song.[1][2]

The square dance is "the American Folk Dance of the State of New Jersey".[3]

Native American music

The Lenape people were the Native American groups that lived in what is now New Jersey and surrounding areas to the north, south, and west for thousands of years. Social tribal songs were often named after things such as animals, other tribes or groups, and even food. These songs were performed in groups and were usually not long. However, the performances and dancing would linger. A significant amount of this part of Lenape culture was lost as Dutch and later British settlers moved into the region and pushed the Lenape west. Eventually the U.S. Government resettled the majority of the Lenape in Oklahoma.

The Ramapough Mountain Indians and the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape are Lenape descendants that are recognized as tribes by the State of New Jersey, but not the U.S. Government. The Powhatan Renape Nation are descendants of the Powhatan people of Virginia. A group of the Powhatan migrated to present day southern New Jersey and are recognized as a tribe by the New Jersey, but not Federal, government.

Classical and Opera music

The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, based at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, the New Jersey State Opera, The Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey, and the New Jersey Ballet are all located in the Newark area. These groups regularly travel to different venues throughout the state to give performances.

The Cape May Music Festival is held every year at the Mid-Atlantic Center for Arts and Humanities in Cape May, New Jersey, featuring classical and chamber music. The South Orange Performing Arts Center in South Orange, New Jersey features classical soloists and ensembles. Other classical music performing groups throughout New Jersey include The Bay-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra, the Garden State Philharmonic, the Philharmonic of Southern New Jersey, and the Princeton Symphony Orchestra. These music groups perform throughout the state, as well as present shows at several universities which serve as home base for some of these groups.

American composer John Philip Sousa would perform concerts on the lawn of the historic Congress Hall (Cape May hotel).

World famous opera singer Frederica von Stade was born in Somerville, New Jersey.

In 1796, William Dunlap of Perth Amboy wrote the first professional opera in the United States called, The Archers.

Popular music

Some of the most renowned modern popular musicians from New Jersey are Hoboken native Frank Sinatra, who was one of the most popular singers of the 20th century; and The Four Seasons (group) who had their first No. 1 hit record, "Sherry", in 1962. They were the first group to have a falsetto lead: Newark native, Frankie Valli. The popular group had many hits and held their own against the British Invasion throughout the 1960s. Frankie Valli went on to a successful solo career. The all female pop group The Shirelles were from Passaic. American Soul music singers Madeline Bell and Ann Cole were both Newark natives. Another famous Newark native was Broadway and film singer Vivian Blaine. Connie Francis, Ricky Nelson and Lesley Gore were three other New Jersey natives who ruled the pop charts in the early '60s.[4]

Deborah Harry of Blondie was born in Miami, but grew up in Hawthorne, and went to college in Hackettstown. Disco and R&B singer Gloria Gaynor was born and raised in Newark. Donald Fagen of Steely Dan was born in Passaic and grew up in Fair Lawn and Kendall Park. He would later write songs about growing up in the suburbs. Joe Lynn Turner, another Garden State native, replaced Ronnie James Dio as the lead singer for Rainbow (English band), and also replaced singer Ian Gillan in Deep Purple. Dramarama formed in Wayne in 1982 and has had success with singles such as, "Anything, Anything (I'll give you)," and "Last Cigarette." The band is now based in California. Kate Pierson of the B-52s was born in Weehawken and grew up in Rutherford. Fred Schneider, also a vocalist in the B-52s, was born in Newark and grew up in the Long Branch area. North Jersey natives guitarist Dean DeLeo and bassist Robert DeLeo are founders and current members of Stone Temple Pilots as well as members of Army of Anyone. Blues Traveler was formed in Princeton in 1987 and has sold millions of albums.

Indie group Real Estate (band) and Cassie Ramone of the Vivian Girls are from Ridgewood. Singer Julian Lynch is also part of the Ridgewood scene. Another Bergen County indie band is The Lumineers, in which founding members are from Ramsey but are currently based in Colorado. Acclaimed alternative band Yo La Tengo are from Hoboken. Another band with great influence is The Feelies, who are from Haledon. Indie band The Wrens formed in Secaucus. Sleigh Bells vocalist Alexis Krauss is from Manasquan. Yeah Yeah Yeahs singer and pianist Karen O is from Englewood. Jack Antonoff of Fun grew up in Bergen County. The alternative rock band Love Among Freaks, most famously known for their songs on the Clerks soundtrack, including, "Bezerker," was also from New Jersey. Far East Movement formed in Tenafly and performed at many talent shows and concerts at Tenafly High School. Grunge and alternative band Those Mockingbirds are from Montclair. James Murphy, founder and frontman of LCD Soundsystem, is from Princeton Junction. Murphy began his career as a DJ at various venues in the Trenton area. Local famous cover band The Nerds had their beginnings in Hudson County in the mid-1980s, and have since grown in popularity into a staple of the Jersey Shore music scene. Venues like The Osprey Hotel and Joe Pops have hosted The Nerds for decades. ApeFight, based in Jersey City, have had three CDs released, and can be found on the soundtrack (as the theme song) to the film, Accepted. Phish members Trey Anasatasio and Page McConnell are from New Jersey. Chris Barron of the Spin Doctors is from Princeton and would write music with John Popper of Blues Traveler. Local celebrity Floyd Vivino, (a.k.a. Uncle Floyd), was born in Paterson, and hosted a comedy variety show with music on New Jersey cable television for twenty five years. Annelise Collette from Jersey City Heights is included in the book HOTTEST NEW ARTIST (2014) and has placed her music on channels such as MTV, VH1, Bravo, Fox, and TLC, including show such as Dance Mom's, Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Red Band Society.

Singer/songwriter Phoebe Snow was from Teaneck, New Jersey. Gary Wright, most famously known for his hit song, Dream Weaver, is from Cresskill, New Jersey. Singer Janis Ian grew up on a farm in Farmingdale, New Jersey. Indie rock group River City Extension is from Toms River, New Jersey. Electronic pop music group Anything Box began by playing in clubs in Passaic and Newark. Fountains of Wayne bassist Adam Schlesinger is from Montclair. The group Fountains of Wayne was named after a fountain and ornament store that was located on U.S. Route 46 in Wayne, New Jersey.

The phonograph record was invented by Thomas Edison in Menlo Park, and the Victor Talking Machine Company established its headquarters and plant in Camden.

Three of the state's most famous recording artists, Frank Sinatra, Dionne Warwick and Connie Francis, share the same birth date – December 12.


In the early 20th century, Newark was an important center for jazz innovation with other smaller New Jersey towns also providing talent. James P. Johnson of New Brunswick and other pioneers helped invent stride. Willie "The Lion" Smith, who grew up in Newark, played stride as well as other styles of jazz piano. Donald Lambert of Princeton was another famous jazz pianist. Jazz alto saxophonist Richie Cole grew up and began playing in Mercer County. Other famous New Jersey jazzmen include bandleader Count Basie, saxmen Wayne Shorter and James Moody, trumpeter Woody Shaw of Newark, and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie who lived in Englewood from 1965 until his death in 1993.

Newark was also the birthplace and home of the great jazz singer Sarah Vaughan – one of jazz's most esteemed vocalists. Viola Wells, also known as, "Miss Rhapsody," was a Newark native who began her career singing jazz, blues, and religious songs at clubs in Newark, and eventually throughout the United States and Europe. Bill Evans was born in Plainfield and attended North Plainfield High School. One of the more popular jazz venues in Newark in the first half of the Twentieth century was the Grand Hotel on West Market Street. Savoy Records, an early important jazz record label, was located in Newark. Casa Blanca on Broad Street and The Cadillac Club are just two of the many Newark live jazz venues that have showcased performers in the Twentieth century.

The Institute of Jazz Studies at the Newark campus of Rutgers University has the largest library of jazz and jazz related items in the world. The Newark Museum has annual summer jazz concert series featuring world known artists. Atlantic City, beginning in the 1920s, was a world famous venue for jazz performers, as well as other music. The Paradise Club on Illinois Avenue was billed as the world's first nightclub and hosted a wide variety of famous artists. Since 1979, Newark has been home to WBGO, the only 24/7 jazz radio station in the New York/Jersey City/Newark metro area.

Other well known jazz instrumentalists from the Garden State are; Al Di Meola, Nick Lucas, Joe Pass, and Bucky Pizzarelli. Hundreds of Jazz albums for Blue Note Records were recorded in Alfred Lion's home studio Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. The Red Bank Jazz & Blues Festival occurs annually. The Liberty Jazz Festival also occurs every year in Liberty State Park in Jersey City. New Jersey continues to be the place that many Jazz musicians call home such as; Steve Turre, Frank Fontaine, Wallace Roney, Tom "Bones" Malone and many others.

Folk and Bluegrass Music

The Folk and Bluegrass scene in New Jersey consists of performances at festivals and small venues throughout the Garden State, mostly in small cities and college towns with more active music scenes. Some of these towns and cities are Montclair, Hoboken, New Brunswick, and Princeton.

There is little information about early folk music in New Jersey. One of the more documented regions for early folk music in the colonial era is from the Pine Barrens and shore regions of southern New Jersey. It was there, in the sandy, dense forests and small shore towns, that the earliest settlers played musical elements of their home countries as well as sang stories of the new land they called home. Some examples ranged from Scots/Irish fiddle tunes to Yiddish and Lithuanian songs. It was in this region that stories were sung and legends like the Jersey Devil were born.

Various workshops, music development institutions, and festivals throughout New Jersey have celebrated folk and bluegrass music for decades. The Folk Project has hosted many folk music singers in the past years including; Richard Shindell, Bob Franke, and Odetta. The New Jersey Folk Festival is held every year at Rutgers University, celebrating a variety of artists, both nationally or locally known. Jim Murphy and The Pine Barons have been playing bluegrass at venues in southern New Jersey for over forty years. The Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival takes place annually at the Salem County Fairgrounds in Woodstown, New Jersey. The Hurdy Gurdy Folk Music Club celebrates folk music in the northern part of the state. The Irish festival at the Jersey Shore celebrates Irish folk music every summer in Sea Girt.

Spook Handy, who has shared the stage with Pete Seeger dozens of times since 2003, and has had three top 20 hits on the International Folk Radio Charts has been named New Jersey Folk Artist of the Year by several publications. John Dull, a Rutherford native, is a well known folk artist who has worked with a wide variety of musicians in many genres. Progressive bluegrass band Railroad Earth hails from Stillwater, New Jersey. Hunterdon County, New Jersey native Sharon Van Etten is an acclaimed singer of folk and indie rock music, performing solo as well as with many other famous artists. David Grisman, born in Hackensack, is a celebrated mandolinist and Newgrass composer. Another highly respected New Jersey folk artist is Meg Baird. John Gorka, a leader of the New Folk movement, was born in Edison. New Jersey folk singer and activist Catherine Moon has released several critically acclaimed independent albums. Atlantic City native and folk singer Jim Albertson sings songs that tell stories of South Jersey. The variety of folk and bluegrass music reflects the cultural past of America and New Jersey, including stories of the widely varied ethnic groups in the state, as well as revivalist styles.


The Sugarhill Gang was born in Englewood, but grew up in New York City. They recorded the single "Rapper's Delight" which is often considered the first hip hop single. Other New Jersey hip hop artists & producers include Cardiak, Steve Lawrence, DUS, Redman, Naughty By Nature, Ice-T, The Fugees, Queen Latifah, P.M. Dawn, Apache, Joe Budden, Outlawz, Outsidaz, Artifacts, K-Def, Akon, Johny Law, Faith Evans, Chino XL, Treach, Lords of the Underground, Jus Allah, YZ, Poor Righteous Teachers, Lakim Shabazz, Tony D, Rottin Razkals, Biz Markie, Wyclef Jean, Rah Digga and Miilkbone (from Perth Amboy, New Jersey), Lil Pontoon (Keansburg, NJ). New Jersey recently has had a new surge of artists the most notable being Sgt. Over (Jersey City, NJ)[5]

Hard Rock and Heavy Metal

Pop-metal group Bon Jovi has been one of the most popular bands in the world since the mid-1980s. Beginning in the 1990s, Bon Jovi has experimented with other genres, such as country rock. Skid Row is a New Jersey-based heavy-metal band formed in the mid-1980s and reached the height of its success in the early 1990s. Sebastian Bach, formerly of Skid Row, is a Canadian singer who has lived in New Jersey for almost two decades and still fronts bands. Since the early 1980s, the New Jersey bands Overkill and Hades have been recording and performing thrash metal around the world. Trixter is a glam rock band also from New Jersey. Monster Magnet is a very known stoner rock metal band from Red Bank with releases on labels such as elektra. Ripping Corpse is a well known Thrash Metal band from Red Bank. Melodic hard rock band Prophet released several albums in the 80s and 90s.

In 1984 the Crossover Thrash Metal band, M.O.D. Method Of Destruction was formed in Lodi, New Jersey, by the members of the band Angry Corpses (Ken Ballone, Tim McMurtrie, Keith Davis) and S.O.D.-Stormtroopers Of Death's former frontman, Billy Milano. M.O.D.'s first album , U.S.A. For M.O.D. was released in 1987 on the NJ based record label, Megaforce Records, and hit the Billboard Top 200 charts soon after its debut. M.O.D. Is still active but now based in Texas, the only original member being Billy Milano.

The Dillinger Escape Plan from Morris Plains and The Number Twelve Looks Like You from Paramus were essential in solidifying the state as a forerunner of the mathcore and experimental metal scenes as well as several of the members of Candiria. New Jersey is also home to the highly acclaimed progressive power metal band Symphony X, and funeral doom metal band Evoken. Brielle native Mark Tornillo was the lead singer for New Jersey metal band T.T. Quick and is now the lead singer for the German metal band Accept. Zack Wylde, the founder of Black Label Society and guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne, was born in Bayonne and grew up in Jackson, New Jersey. Jersey City is the birthplace of both hard rock band Rye Coalition and psychedelic rock group The Black Hollies. New Jersey Stoner rock band Core had success with two albums in the 1990s. Hard rock band The Parlor Mob is from Red Bank. Soulfly guitarist Marc Rizzo grew up in Carlstadt.

Punk and Hardcore

Punk rock and hardcore have played an important role in the music of New Jersey, with many contributing artists who have gained popularity.

Arguably the most famous and influential punk band from New Jersey is The Misfits[6] founded in 1977 in Lodi, New Jersey, by singer and songwriter Glenn Danzig, who in 1983 broke from the band and formed Samhain and in 1988 Danzig. Among the early hardcore bands was Rosemary's Babies. also from Lodi, whose drummer Eerie Von, would become bassist for both Samhain and Danzig. Adrenalin O.D. is usually credited with igniting the early N.J. hardcore scene at the dawn of the 1980s. In 1983 after the breakup of three-piece Impossible Task, Metalcore pioneer and hardcore punk band Hogan's Heroes[7][8] were founded in 1984. Other notable punk and hardcore bands from New Jersey include Bouncing Souls, Mucky Pup, Streetlight Manifesto, The Gaslight Anthem, Titus Andronicus, Lifetime, Ted Leo, Screaming Females, Hidden in Plain View, The Wretched Ones, Senses Fail, Saves the Day, Thursday, Midtown, Patti Smith,[9][10][11] Leathermouth, Man Overboard and Bigwig. Tom Verlaine, founder and frontman of the punk/new wave group Television (band), is from Morristown, New Jersey.

Venues and Events

The State of New Jersey has a diverse population that produces a significant number of music institutions, events, and live music venues.

Audio broadcasting

Music is broadcast in New Jersey by terrestrial radio stations, cable FM, local wire networks, satellite and the Internet.

Radio stations WFMU from Jersey City, WSOU from Seton Hall in South Orange, New Jersey (winner of awards from publications such as Friday Morning Quarterback, the College Music Journal and Album Network) and WPRB from Princeton are three of the most well known independent/college radio stations in America. Newark's WBGO is one of the country's most important independent jazz stations. WRPR in Mahwah has also gained relevance for its rock programming. WDHA-FM "The Rock of New Jersey," is located in the Dover area and has a long history of providing North Jersey with both classic and modern rock. Madison, New Jersey native Eddie Trunk worked at WDHA early in his career. WGHT Radio is located in Northern New Jersey, and is a spring board for a long list on On Air Radio Talent. WGHT, formally known as WKER-AM, has been broadcasting at 1500-AM since the early 1960s. Jimmy Howes is currently WGHT's morning show host and Program Director. WNNJ in Newton, New Jersey, provides rock music to the Skylands Region of the state. WMGM (FM) in Atlantic City broadcasts rock music to South Jersey. WWNJ in Toms River, WWCJ in Cape May, and WWFM at the West Windsor campus of Mercer County Community College all broadcast classical music.

Internet radio stations also contribute to New Jersey's music scene. For example,, an Internet station devoted to underground Jersey rock,[12] has been contributing to New Jersey's music scene since 2000.[13] Other internet radio stations in New Jersey that contribute to New Jersey's music scene include and[13]

See also


  1. ^ State of New Jersey - FAQs
  2. ^ "Harmony still lacking in push for N.J. song", Jonathan Tamari, Philadelphia Inquirer, 15-Feb-2009, retrieved 11-Mar-2009
  3. ^ New Jersey State Dance, retrieved 07-Mar-2009
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^
  6. ^ The Misfits at VH1
  7. ^ * 1948-1999 Muze, Inc. Hogan's Heroes POP Artists beginning with HOD, Phonolog, 1999, p. 1.No. 7-278B Section 207
  8. ^ "Angermiller, Michelle. For The Times, August 14, 2011". Retrieved 2012-02-26. 
  9. ^ NPR Interview Intersections Patti Smith, Poet Laureate of Punk
  10. ^ Patti Smith Dream of Life NYT Critics' Pick Godmother of Punk, Celebrator of Life
  11. ^ Patti Smith
  12. ^ Lisa Rose (March 16, 2003). "For these Logs, the pipes are calling Indie angst and eclectic flair".  
  13. ^ a b "Old Bridge Internet benefit fights disease".  


  • Andrea Witting, (2007) All Grown Up The Movie, U.S. Chaos cited interview, extensive.
  • Blush, Steven (2001). American Hardcore: A Tribal History. Los Angeles, CA: Feral House. ISBN 0-922915-71-7.

External links

  • – New Jersey based online radio station playing NJ Bands
  • - Open mic reviews from all over New Jersey.
  • Fallout Entertainment Group - The Fallout Entertainment Group Presents:New Jersey Artists and artist development
  • Central NJ Musicians
  • Jersey
  • The Penguin – New Jersey based online radio station
  • "Beyond the Palace" -- daily radio show featuring Jersey artists
  • NJ Hall of Fame timeline
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