New Jersey

Jersey Girl by Tom Waits

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Nothing else matters in this whole wide world
When you're in love with a Jersey girl Read full Lyrics
"Jersey Girl" is mostly associated with Bruce Springsteen, even though it's not something the famous singer/songwriter wrote. Rather, the sandpaper-voiced Tom Waits wrote it with his then-future wife, Kathleen Brennan.

People likely assume Springsteen wrote it because he is a Jersey boy. Springsteen was born in Long Branch, New Jersey, which was a beach resort town in the late 18th century. In the late 19th century, to some it became known as the Hollywood of the east, due to its burgeoning theater scene. It was also a popular destination for United States presidents. Executive branch chiefs, including Ulysses S. Grant, William McKinley, and Woodrow Wilson all made the trek to Long Branch. There's even a park near the beach called Seven Presidents Park, which was named in honor of the high officials that made their way there. Sadly, The Church of the Presidents, a sanctuary where each of the seven attended, is the only Long Branch structure associated with these famous travelers left standing.

Waits' song is not so New Jersey-specific, however. Its lyric talks about taking his baby to the carnival - which could be any carnival - and riding on all the rides. Yet when Springsteen sings "Tonight I'm gonna take that ride/Across the river to the Jersey side," he's most likely referring to the Hudson River. The river separates New York City from New Jersey. However, there's more than just a river that separates New York from New Jersey. New Jersey is oftentimes treated as New York's poor stepchild. New York has a high-class reputation, whereas New Jersey is treated as lower, more working class.

Even though New York has more than its share of trouble makers, people often make derogatory remarks about New Jersey's toxic waste sites (even though the most infamous toxic waste dump is Love Canal, which is actually in the usually more scenic Niagara Falls), mobsters and, of course, the dumb characters on MTV's Jersey Shore.

Jersey Girl Snooki<br>Photo: Girl Snooki
Who knows, maybe Waits was thinking about girls like Snooki when he penned this Springsteen favorite. It opens with, "I got no time for the corner boys/down in the street making all that noise." Could these be street smart New Yorkers? The song continues, "Or the girls out on the avenue/'Cause tonight I wanna be with you." Nevertheless, Waits was once quoted on WNEW FM as saying he wrote the song for his wife, Brennan. "She's from Jersey. Well, she's originally from Illinois, she moved to New Jersey and she grew up there, Morristown, New Jersey." Morristown was tagged the military capital of the American Revolution back in the 18th century due to its strategic part in the war for independence from Great Britain. This reputation is marked by several historic city locations, which are known today as Morristown National Historic Park.

Ultimately, "Jersey Girl" is a love song, which just happens to be about a girl from that state. "You know she thrills me with all her charms/When I'm wrapped up in my baby's arms," its lovey dovey lyrics go. "My little girl gives me everything/I know that some day she'll wear my ring," its lyric hopefully opines.

Therefore, the song can likely be sung for any girl, from anywhere. A guy could coo, "I'm in love with my Barstow girl," one supposes, but it probably wouldn't be quite the same. Even so, like New Jersey, Barstow is an underdog place. Maybe that's what it's really all about: falling in love with an underdog.

Whether it's sung by Tom Waits or Bruce Springsteen, this song comes off as a working class romance song. Both of these guys are city guys but – despite their successful music careers – they'll always be blue-collar guys in our eyes. In other words, they're the kinds of men that will always fall for Jersey girls.

Dan MacIntosh
September 4, 2011
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Comments: 3

  • Leandro Caffarena from Buenos AiresActually Tom Waits doesn’t says “ Or the girls out on the avenue” but “no more whores on8th Avenue”.

    Wonderful song
  • Jessie Jane from NjHe was in no way thinking about a girl like snookie, I don't even think she hails from nj
  • Stacey from New JerseyI love this song. It takes me back 2 when i was a teenager, hangin out on the boardwalk in Atlantic City.
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