... and the Empire State Building is to the south.
Courtesy of Time Inc. Archives
By Melissa Locker
September 8, 2014

New York City may not sleep, but it does age. Today the Big Apple celebrates 350 years of being New York City, after being officially renamed from New Amsterdam on Sept. 8, 1664.

From the best of times to the worst of times, songwriters have captured every corner of the city and the lives lived in its five boroughs through music. Artists ranging from Nas to Billy Joel have found themselves in a “New York State of Mind.” Ryan Adams and Frank Sinatra have sung about “New York, New York.” In “Visions of Johanna,” Bob Dylan sang about the girl he saw on the D train, while straphangers such as The New York Dolls, Jennifer Lopez, Justin Townes Earle and Duke Ellington have all sung about the subway. From the Bronx to Brooklyn, the Lower East Side to Rockaway Beach, over the last 350 years, musicians have paid homage to the town they call home or the city they’ve stopped in along the way.

Whether it’s Azealia Banks singing “212” or the Rolling Stones getting “Shattered” or The Strokes singing about “New York City Cops,” the city has been a muse for many. To celebrate the 350th birthday of the city, TIME is taking a look back at some of the greatest songs every written about NYC. Due to the incredible number of songs written about the city, there are many songs that didn’t make this list, like Le Tigre’s “My My Metrocard,” Grand Mixer D.S.T.’s “The Home of Hip-Hop,” The Magnetic Fields’s “The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side,” and the Village People’s love song to “Fire Island.” In theory, the entire soundtrack from Rent could be on the list, and there’s not much that screams (at four in the morning, while banging on a trash can in the alley behind your apartment) New York more than Law & Order original recipe star Jerry Orbach and the original Broadway cast of 42nd Street singing “The Lullaby of Broadway.” It’s a list that, like the city, could go on forever.

But barring that, here are 17 of the best songs about New York City:

1. Jay Z and Alicia Keys, “Empire State of Mind”

2. The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, “Fairytale of New York”

3. Lou Reed, “Walk on the Wild Side”

4. Billie Holiday, “Autumn in New York”

5. LCD Soundsystem, “New York, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down”

6. Beastie Boys, “No Sleep Till Brooklyn”

7. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, “The Message”

8. Bruce Springsteen, “The Rising”

9. Tom Waits, “Downtown Train”

10. Leonard Cohen, “Chelsea Hotel No. 2″

11.Frank Sinatra, “Theme from New York, New York”

12. Jennifer Lopez, “Jenny From The Block”

13. Duke Ellington Orchestra, “Take the ‘A’ Train”

14. Gil Scott-Heron, “New York Is Killing Me”

15. The Ramones, “Rockaway Beach”

16. The Lovin’ Spoonful, “Summer in the City”

17. Bobby Womack and Peace, “Across 110th Street”

MORE: From the Archives: HOW TO SAVE NEW YORK

MORE: The Decline Of New York

 

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