Although many people associate this song with Frank Sinatra, it was Liza Minnelli who sang it in the 1977 film of the same name, which was directed by Martin Scorsese and starred Minnelli and Robert De Niro as musicians and lovers. It was written for the film by John Kander and Fred Ebb, who wrote many songs for her including the Cabaret
songs "Maybe This Time" and "Yes."
Frank Sinatra began performing this in 1978 at concerts in New York's Radio City Music Hall. His version was released on his 1980 triple album Trilogy: Past, Present and Future, which was highly acclaimed and brought the singer back in the public eye. "New York, New York" quickly became one of Sinatra's signature songs.
While many songs have been written about New York City, no song has captured the pride and elegance of the city quite like this one. The lyrics, "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere" sum up what many New Yorkers feel about their city: competition is intense, but success there is richly rewarded and very satisfying. The song stresses personal responsibility in the line, "It's up to you, New York, New York," as it's a place where you can't expect a handout but have an opportunity to succeed no matter who you are. This song also popularized New York as the "City that never sleeps," which is true in the literal sense that many businesses are open 24 hours but also in the figurative sense that you are expected to always be at your best.
The song is written from the perspective of an entertainer who leaves a small town and tries to make it in the city. Instead of obsessing over the difficulties he will face, he embraces the challenges in anticipation of a new life in a vibrant city.
Sinatra is from Hoboken, New Jersey, which is a suburb of New York City. By 1978 he had established himself as a legend in the entertainment industry, and his performance of this song gave it a credibility that no other singer could have brought (Tony Bennett had already aligned himself with San Francisco
). Sinatra was very popular in Las Vegas, but he made it clear with this song that you needed to be even better to perform in New York. He carried himself with a swagger and was known as a leader with lots of connections. If anyone could sing about winning, and doing it in style, it was Sinatra.
New York has two major league baseball teams: The Mets and The Yankees. The Mets are considered more a working-class team and tend to represent areas like Queens, Long Island and to some extent, New Jersey. The Yankees are more associated with Manhattan, which is the hub of activity in New York City. The Yankees consistently have the biggest payroll in baseball and have won the most championships. They, of course, appropriated "New York, New York," which they play after every home game, win or lose.
In 1993, Sinatra recorded this with Tony Bennett for Sinatra's album Duets. In 2006, Michael Bolton covered this for his tribute album Bolton Swings Sinatra.
Sinatra's version was nominated for a Grammy Award for Record Of The Year. It lost to "Sailing
" by Christopher Cross. "Someone joked that I beat Sinatra, so I'd better watch my back," Cross told us.
In February 1985, New York's Mayor Edward I. Koch proclaimed this song as the city's official anthem, though it was never actually made official. The song played at Koch's funeral service in 2013.
Teri Hatcher sang this karaoke style on the TV series Desperate Housewives in the 2005 episode "Move On." Her character, Susan Mayer, also used the opportunity to bash her ex-husband, who was seated in the audience.
Released in 1980, this song came 40 years after Sinatra sang "I'll Never Smile Again" with Tommy Dorsey's band, the first #1 hit on Billboard's newly established number-one singles chart (predecessor of the Hot 100).