In the history of popular music, I’m not sure there are many songs with more swagger than Frank Sinatra’s version of “New York, New York”.
I say “Frank Sinatra’s version” because, despite it being a song almost inextricably linked with Ol’ Blue Eyes in most people’s minds, his recording was not the original. That honour went to Liza Minnelli.
Until recently, I didn’t even realise that “New York, New York” is the theme tune to a Martin Scorsese film of the same name, starring Liza Minnelli and Robert De Niro…which, I imagine, is how Liza Minnelli came to be recording the theme tune in the first place.
I had never looked into it, particularly, but I’d always rather assumed “New York, New York” was written some time back in the 40s or 50s, from where so many of Frank Sinatra’s most famous songs came from.
Turns out my half-assumption had missed the target by about four decades.
“New York, New York” was written by John Kander and Fred Ebb in the late 1970s. Whilst not perhaps the best-known songwriting team of the 20th century, you’ll know Kander and Ebb by the high quality of their work.
If I tell you that Kander and Ebb wrote the songs for “Cabaret” and “Chicago” together, you’ll immediately realise how talented they were.
Thanks to Sinatra performing their song so extensively during the latter part of his career, “New York, New York” is a song we all know today.
For most of us, the minute the brass starts up for the intro we know where we’re going. But on the off-chance we haven’t recognised it yet, by the time we get just a couple of lines into the lyrics we know exactly where we are…
Start spreading the news
I’m leaving today
I want to be a part of it
New York, New York
As I’m talking a lot about Frank Sinatra’s version of “New York, New York”, I feel I should take a minute to give Liza Minnelli’s original recording the respect it deserves.
She delivers a fabulous performance of a great song. And the two versions demonstrate one of the reasons I love music so much. The technical differences between Liza Minnelli’s version and Frank Sinatra’s version are miniscule, beyond the obvious aspects like their…