Music of New Jersey
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|Music of the United States|
The Lenape people were the original inhabitants of present-day New Jersey and surrounding areas to the north, south, and west. 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 operatic 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.
Folk and bluegrass music
The Folk and Bluegrass scene in New Jersey consists of performances at festivals and small venues throughout the 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.
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.
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 Hank Mobley, Wayne Shorter and James Moody, vocalist Babs Gonzales, trumpeter Woody Shaw of Newark, trumpeter Johnny Coles of Trenton, and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie who lived in Englewood from 1965 until his death in 1993.
Newark was also the birthplace and home of the 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 include Nick Lucas, Joe Pass, Jimmy Lyons, Larry Young, Steve Swallow, George Van Eps, Buster Williams, Tony Scott, Bucky Pizzarelli, John Pizzarelli, David S. Ware, Al Di Meola, and Steve Swell. 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 a place that many jazz musicians call home including Steve Turre, Frank Fontaine, Wallace Roney, and Tom "Bones" Malone.
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 Mike Zombie, Cardiak, Steve Lawrence, DUS, Redman, Naughty By Nature, Ice-T, The Fugees, Queen Latifah, P.M. Dawn, Apache, Joe Budden, Outlawz, Outsidaz, Artifacts, Gee Rock, K-Def, Akon, 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, and Fetty Wap (from Paterson, New Jersey). (Jersey City, NJ)
The Shirelles, formed in Passaic, were a girl group popular in the early 1960s. The Doughboys are a garage rock band formed in Plainfield in 1965; other New Jersey garage bands included Richard and the Young Lions from Newark, The Galaxies IV from Trenton, The Charlemagnes from South Brunswick, and The Myddle Class from Berkeley Heights. Figures of Light were a proto-punk band formed in New Brunswick in 1970. Bruce Springsteen became the most famous rock star from New Jersey of all time with the release of his third album in 1975. The Feelies were an alternative rock group formed in Haledon in 1976.
Yo La Tengo, elder statesmen of indie rock, formed in Hoboken in the mid 1980s. Rock band My Chemical Romance, formed in Jersey City, New Jersey in late 2001; they had a #2 album on the Billboard 200 with the emo The Black Parade in October 2006. Bass Player for The Hangdogs is JC Chmiel, who is originally from Red Bank; he also plays bass for Ellen Foley of Meatloaf and The Clash fame, as well as major label solo records.
Twin Gable, up and coming indie juggernaut, formed in Bergen county in 2015, released their first EP: "Bonds" w/ single, Forgotten Strangers. In 2016, they finally released their first, full length album, Qualm.
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 1980s, 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. Blues Traveler was formed in Princeton in 1987.
In the early and mid 1980’s the New Jersey nightclub culture realized tremendous popularity with various live acts playing hard rock, heavy metal and dance oriented New Wave music. Some of the more notable acts touring the club circuit were Twisted Sister fronted by lead singer Dee Snider, Streetwalker, Another Pretty Face, Good Rats, Baby Blue, Sin Sity fronted by Mike Edie, Rat Race Choir, Crystal Ship (Doors show), Whiplash, Monroe, Kinderhook, Molly Cribb, Salty Dog, The Watch, Trigger, White Tiger, The Flossie Band, Phantom’s Opera, TT Quick, Southern Cross, Sticky Fingers (Stones tribute), E Walker Band, Icarian, Condor, The Game, White Tiger, Harlequin.
In 1984 the Crossover Thrash Metal band, Method Of Destruction was formed with Stormtroopers Of Death former frontman, Billy Milano. The 1987 debut, U.S.A. For M.O.D. was released on NJ based label, Megaforce Records and entered the Billboard Top 200 charts soon after. 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 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 as is U.S. Chaos for the entire continent of North America for Skinhead and OI Predating as The Radicals in 1978. All Hailing from East Paterson, Bergen and Passaic counties.
Emerging in 1983 after the breakup of three-piece Impossible Task, Metalcore pioneer and hardcore punk band Hogan's Heroes 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, Lou Bitsko, Hidden in Plain View, The Wretched Ones, Senses Fail, Saves the Day, Thursday, Midtown, Leathermouth, Man Overboard, and Bigwig. Patti Smith grew up in Deptford Township, Tom Verlaine, founder and frontman of the punk/new wave group Television, is from Morristown, and Richie Ramone, the Ramones' drummer from '84-'89, hails from Passaic. Shana Fitzpatrick, from East Brunswick, is the front woman of the pop-punk folk duo MULVA.
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.
- The Annual Atlantic City Mothers Day Music Festival is held at Boardwalk Hall.
- The Spring Camp Jam in The Pines is held every year, allowing people to camp on farms in southern New Jersey and enjoy a variety of live music performances.
- The final American concert of the A Conspiracy of Hope Amnesty International tour was broadcast live on MTV from Giants Stadium on June 15, 1986. The concert was twelve hours long and featured multiple acts including; U2, Lou Reed, Joan Baez, Bryan Adams, Peter Gabriel, and a reunited The Police.
- Live Earth, a worldwide television and Internet-streamed benefit music event promoting causes to stop what supporters contend is global warming, took place during the spring of 2007 in the state. It used Giants Stadium in East Rutherford as the stage for its American concert venue. A wide array of performers, from a variety of music genres, took part in raising proceeds. Former Vice President Al Gore helped organize the effort.
- Asbury Park, is home of Convention Hall, the Asbury Lanes, Wonder Bar, The Saint and The Stone Pony, where Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, and Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes frequented early in their careers.
- Atlantic City has been a well known destination for famous musical acts for over a century. This seaside resort city has many venues that provide world-famous entertainment.
- The Velvet Underground gave their first performance as a band at Summit High School in Summit, New Jersey.
- The Izod Center (formerly the Brendan Byrne Arena and the Continental Airlines Arena) is located in East Rutherford.
- The Folk Project has hosted many local and internationally known folk music acts such as Richard Shindell, Bob Franke, and Odetta.
- The Prudential Center in Newark hosts concerts.
- The New Jersey Performing Arts Center, home of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, is also located in Newark.
- The Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, New Jersey is an historic venue that has hosted a variety of musical and performing artists over the past decades.
- Metlife Stadium is located in East Rutherford.
- Studio 1, which was located on Verona Avenue in Newark's North Ward, hosted many rock and metal acts in the 1980s and 1990s.
- City Gardens Calhoun St. Trenton, New Jersey Famous Punk venue 1978–1998.
- The Capitol Theatre in Passaic hosted a number of famous acts in the late 1970s and early 1980s, including The Clash, Motörhead, Ozzy Osbourne, Van Halen, and Bruce Springsteen. The concert DVD R40 by the rock band RUSH features several songs performed by the band at the venue in 1976.
- The Rustic Cabin, which was located on Route 9W in Englewood Cliffs, was the roadhouse where Frank Sinatra was discovered in 1939.
- The New Jersey Folk Festival is held annually by undergraduates of Rutgers University at the Douglass campus.
- Outpost in the Burbs in Montclair features rock and folk live performances.
- Mexicali Live in Teaneck hosts many local bands as well as nationally known acts.
- The Appel Farm Arts and Music Center in Salem County, New Jersey offers educational programs as well as performances of a wide variety of the arts.
- The Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden is an outdoor amphitheater located on the Delaware River.
- The Osprey Hotel in Manasquan has hosted many Jersey Shore acts for years. The legendary band Salvation played a record 11 summers there from 1969 to 1980.
- Mainstage in Pompton Lakes, NJ hosted many punk and metal bands from 2007 until it was shut down by the police in 2009
- The PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel is an outdoor amphitheater that hosts concerts and events.
- The Rainbow's End in Wood-Ridge on Hackensack Street hosted famous country music acts in the 1970s and early 1980s and was owned by steel guitarist Mack Sullivan.
- The Palomino Club (1979-1995) in Wallington, New Jersey, which was also owned by Sullivan, hosted country acts.
- Dingbatz in Clifton is a venue for hard rock and metal bands.
- Palisades Amusement Park in Fort Lee/Cliffside Park staged major concerts at its famous music pavilion, featuring current pop/rock acts and teen idols, throughout the 1960s. They were hosted by then-WABC (AM) Musicradio disc jockey Cousin Brucie, a.k.a. Bruce Morrow. The attraction closed permanently in 1971. Coincidentally, the park's popularity inspired the monster 1962 rock hit, "Palisades Park," by Freddy Cannon. The tune was written by Chuck Barris, before his days as a pioneering TV game show producer. The song was covered by the Ramones on their 1989 album, Brain Drain.
- Bloomfield Ave Cafe is located in Montclair on Bloomfield Ave.
- Aldo's Hideaway (1977-2004) which was located on the NW corner of Marin Avenue and Orient Way in Lyndhurst hosted punk and alternative acts. The club was destroyed by fire.
- The Pipeline in Newark hosted massive punk, skinhead, ska, alternative industrial and Goth acts in the 1980s and 1990s.
- The Bergen Performing Arts Center is located in Englewood.
- The Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey is a venue famous throughout the state for presenting musicals.
- The State Theatre is located in New Brunswick.
- Another live music venue in New Brunswick is The Court Tavern.
- The Crossroads in Garwood hosts a variety of live music.
- The Wellmont Theatre is located in Montclair.
- Starland Ballroom is located in Sayreville.
- Maxwell's on Washington Ave., opened in 1978, was the center of the live music scene in Hoboken for decades. The club closed in July 2013. The venue opened under new management in 2014 as Maxwell's Tavern.
- Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band played a record setting ten dates in a row at Giants Stadium in 2003.
- The Monsters of Rock tour in 1988, headlined by Van Halen, had one of its stops at Giants Stadium.
- Waterloo Village in Byram Township was one of the locations where the Lollapalooza Festival occurred in the early 1990s.
- The first Orion Music + More festival was a large two-day music festival hosted by Metallica in June 2012 at Bader Field in Atlantic City.
- The three-day All Points West Music and Arts Festival was held in the summers of 2008 and 2009 at Liberty State Park in Jersey City.
- The Skate And Surf Festival is an annual event that originated in Asbury Park. The organizers later started The Bamboozle festival which replaced this. However, the Skate And Surf was brought back from 2013 onwards.
- The Bamboozle was an annual three-day event that has a wide variety of musical acts and comedians. This festival has been held at the MetLife Sports complex as well as in Asbury Park. Bands vary from being independent label acts to acts known throughout the world. This was last held in 2012 and it is currently unknown whether it will make a return in the future.
- The Aquifer Music Venue in Clinton, NJ Hosted highly acclaimed Metalcore and Hardcore acts from all over the world in a suburban town off of Interstate 78.
- Albert Hall in Waretown features live bluegrass bands every Saturday Night and has other bluegrass festivals.
- The Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC) in Morristown has live music performances.
- The Galaxy Night Club Somerdale NJ – Where some of the hottest 1980s metal bands were scouted and signed including Bon Jovi, Skid Row, Cinderella and Brittany Fox.
Frank Sinatra (from Hoboken, d. 1998) had at least one #1 Billboard Hot 100 hit with "Strangers in the Night" in 1966. Frankie Valli (who was portrayed in the play Jersey Boys) had 7 #1 Hot 100 hits in the 1960s and 1970s, including "December 1963 (Oh, What a Night)". Kool & the Gang had a #1 Hot 100 hit with "Celebration" in 1981. Bon Jovi had 4 #1 Hot 100 hits, including "Living on a Prayer" in 1987. Whitney Houston (d. 2012) had 11 #1 Hot 100 hits in the 1980s and 1990s, including "I Will Always Love You" in 1992. P.M. Dawn had one #1 hit with "Set Adrift on Memory Bliss" in 1991. Lauryn Hill of the Fugees had a #1 Hot 100 hit with "Doo Wop (That Thing)" in 1998. Akon (who moved to Jersey City) had 2 #1 Hot 100 hits in the 2000s, including "I Wanna Love You" in 2006. Halsey had a #1 Hot 100 hit with The Chainsmokers, "Closer", in 2016.
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. The long running free form program Anything Anything with Rich Russo airs on both WDHA-FM and WRAT-FM.
Internet radio stations also contribute to New Jersey's music scene. For example, Blowupradio.com, an Internet station devoted to underground Jersey rock, has been contributing to New Jersey's music scene since 2000. Other internet radio stations in New Jersey that contribute to New Jersey's music scene include ThePenguinRocks.com and AltrokRadio.com and DJJD's Metallicave on NuclearRockRadio.com
-  Archived March 3, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
-  Archived February 18, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
-  Archived March 30, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
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- Lisa Rose (March 16, 2003). "For these Logs, the pipes are calling Indie angst and eclectic flair". The Star-Ledger. p. 1.
- "Old Bridge Internet benefit fights disease". Home News Tribune. October 15, 2010.
- 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.
- BlowUpRadio.com – New Jersey based online radio station playing NJ Bands
- JerseyMic.com – 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 music.com
- The Penguin – New Jersey based online radio station
- "Beyond the Palace" -- daily radio show featuring Jersey artists
- NJ Hall of Fame timeline