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5 Songs That Say Queens, New York


Queens has produced so many popular musicians, but the hometown borough doesn't always get the love reflected back in the music. Here are five classic songs about Queens, New York, by local musicians who made it big in hip-hop, punk rock, and folk rock, plus one classic TV theme that says Queens in another way.

"Rockaway Beach" by The Ramones


"It's not hard, not far to reach / we can hitch a ride to Rockaway Beach." Only Dee Dee Ramone actually cared to visit Rockaway Beach, but in penning the lyrics to the fast, wonderful song, he made punk rock's debt to surf rock explicit.

The single reached No. 66 on the Billboard 100, the highest placement in the Ramones' career. The Ramones met and formed in 1974 in another Queens neighborhood, Forest Hills. They released "Rockaway Beach" on the album Rocket to Russia in 1977. The group is considered the first punk band, and one of the most important rock bands ever.

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"Christmas in Hollis" by Run-DMC

Christmas in Hollis

"It's Christmas time in Hollis Queens / Mom's cooking chicken and collard greens." Run-DMC had already brought hip-hop to the global stage when the members paid homage to their hometown of Hollis in this holiday favorite.

Recorded as a single for the A&M Records compilation A Very Special Christmas (1987), which benefited the Special Olympics, it has so many of the elements that made Run-DMC hip-hop royalty: infectious rhymes, spare beats, cross-genre and cross-over audience appeal. It's the best hip-hop Christmas song ever, and one of the best holiday songs from the late 20th century.

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"Those Were the Days" Theme Song to All in the Family

All in the Family

The opening song to the 1970s TV show All in the Family was written for the show (Lee Adams, lyrics; Charles Strouse, music), and was actually performed live for a studio audience by Archie (Carroll O'Connor) and Edith (Jean Stapleton).

The song waxes nostalgic for simpler times -- "didn't need no welfare state" -- and even longs for another "Herbert Hoover." There are actually multiple versions of the song, as the two actors recorded new versions before several episodes. The song is definitely a hallmark of what was a landmark show, exploring the fault lines of a changing society. Though the lyrics don't mention Queens, the show was set in the borough and Archie's crooning will be forever linked to it.

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"Ghetto Qu'ran (Forgive Me)" by 50 Cent

50 Cent

Is this the song that got 50 Cent shot and made his career?

In May 2000, aspiring rapper 50 Cent (Curtis Jackson) was shot nine times in a car parked outside his grandmother's home in South Jamaica. Speculation from law enforcement was that the lyrics of "Ghetto Qu'ran (Forgive Me)" -- a bootleg single released earlier that year -- may have inspired the shooting as retaliation for 50 Cent naming local drug dealers and criminals, notably infamous drug kingpin Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff.

50 Cent's survival would later became a dominant theme of his major breakthrough album Get Rich or Die Trying.

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"Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard" and "The 59th Street Bridge Song"

Simon and Garfunkel
Paul Simon's "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard" (1972) and his earlier song with partner Art Garfunkel, "The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)," both reference their home borough of Queens. In both cases, however, the lyrics themselves are fiction.

"Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard" mentions "Rosie, the Queen of Corona" but there was never a real Rosie.

The pair's 59th Street Bridge is more properly known as the Queensboro Bridge, and if you've got to "slow down" because "you move too fast" on it, then you really are groovy.

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