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Theme From New York, New York

(Fred Ebb/John Kander)

If Robert DeNiro hadn’t said something, this song written by Fred Ebb and John Kander might have never been, let alone become a monster hit for Liza Minnelli and later Frank Sinatra.  DeNiro was in the film New York, New York, with Liza, and didn’t care for Fred Ebb’s and John Kander’s original theme song, so they penned this one, and it has become a modern classic.  Depending on who you ask, this song is most strongly associated with Frank or Liza, and, of course, the city itself.

Liza’s version originally appeared in the 1977 film.  Frank’s version was recorded a couple of years later, and it was heralded as his comeback record (one of many during his long and storied career) and became one of his last hits, reaching #30 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the summer of 1980.  It appeared on Trilogy:  Past Present Future and later on Sinatra Reprise:  The Very Good Years.

The song has become a staple at New York sporting events, most notably the Belmont Stakes and Yankees baseball games, where it is played after every home game:  Frank’s version is played after a win; Liza’s version is played after a loss.  This was the cause of a brouhaha in 2001 when Liza told the Yankees she wanted her rendition of the song to be played after a win, and if not, they should yank it completely.  Complying with Liza’s wishes; sort of; the Yankees did just that, and played Frank’s version after every game, regardless of the outcome.  Her bluff called, Liza relented and now she can once again hear her version after every loss.

The song continues to be a winner:  It is played at non-sporting related New York events, such as after the famous Times Square ball drop, on New Year’s Eve, and after graduation at Columbia University.

Madness member Suggs plays it at the end of his Party Classics radio programme which airs on Friday and Saturday nights in the U.K.

It is not a heavily covered song; Frank and Liza both put their personal stamps on it; but Queen, of all bands, performed part of it in the 1986 film Highlander, and as recently as 2006, Michael Bolton included it on Bolton Swings Sinatra.  In 2008, Cat Power recorded a bluesy rendition of it that barely resembles the original, taking great liberties with the melody, although the lyrics are more or less intact.

Frank Sinatra recordings
Reprise RPS49233 (XNY 2103 S) (US 45)

Sources:

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theme_from_New_York,_New_York
  2. http://www.last.fm/music/Frank+Sinatra/_/Theme+From+New+York,+New+York
  3. http://www.amazon.com/New-York-1977-Film/dp/B00000DQSH
  4. http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=KpFwnf6F_GY