By Russo Millien
Love it or hate it, this big fish-shaped sandbar we call home inspired a surprising amount of music artists over the years, judging by the number of songs that reference Long Island. Both those from the region and out-of-state musicians that visited our beaches while passing through on tour have sung LI’s praises. From rock to hip hop and even disco, there’s a wide variety of tunes that feature mention of the Island. Take a listen!
51. “Montauk” by Rufus Wainwright
“The End,” as the East End fishing and resort community in this song title is known, may well have inspired the most songs of any other place on LI. On this airy track release in 2012, the American-Canadian singer who melds opera and pop, repeats the lyric “one day you will come to Montauk” as the singer describes various scenes the listener should expect to see.
50. “Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall in Love” by Cole Porter
Late composer Cole Porter penned this oft-covered piano song, which appeared in his Broadway musical Paris in 1928 and was the theme song of the ‘33 movie Grand Slam. “Romantic sponges, they say, do it, oysters down in Oyster Bay do it. Let’s do it, let’s fall in love.” The best cover, of course, is Ella Fitzgerald’s.
49. “Cross That Bridge” by The Stray Cats
Although rockabilly rebels Brian Setzer and The Stray Cats are from Long Island, they more often refer to Memphis and southern states in their songs. In their ‘81 cover of Eddie Cochran’s “Jeanie, Jeanie, Jeanie,” they switch one line to “Well I live in Bellmore U.S.A., well I rock all night and I sleep all day.” But in their ‘93 B-side, “Cross That Bridge,” they gave LI a nod on an original track. “Well I’m cruisin’ down Grand Central, or maybe Southern State, don’t worry baby you know I won’t be late.”
48. “Biz Dance Part 1” Biz Marke
On of his ’88 debut album Goin Off that preceded his best known hit “Just A Friend,” The Biz had no shame in plugging his hometown in this awesomely old school hip hop track. “I’m known for beatboxin’ and rap, and now it’s time, to put Long Island on the map,” he raps in the opening line. At the closing he gives shout outs to Bay Shore, “C.I.,” Amityville, Wyandanch, Brentwood, Coram and Hempstead.
47. “Long Island Blues” by Julian Casablancas
The lead singer of rock band The Strokes released this percussion-free piano and accordion song on the deluxe edition of his ’09 debut solo album, Phrazes for the Young. Although only the only LI reference is in the track title, not any of the lyrics, it’s a safe bet that this is a local reference since the singer is from New York City.
46. “Before the Kiss, a Redcap” by Blue Öyster Cult
Between making their bones singing about the occult and Godzilla, hometown hard rockers BÖC dropped a local reference on their ‘72 self-titled debut album. “Back home at Conry’s bar” is a refrain in the chorus on “Before the Kiss, a Redcap.” Conry’s Bar was a venue on Hempstead Turnpike where the band frequently played when they were starting out.
45. “After School” by LL Cool J
And the award for the only music artist to rhyme anything with Massapequa goes to none other than Bay Shore and Queens native rapper LL Cool J. The mention comes in this track featuring Puff Daddy on 10, his ninth album, which dropped in ‘02. “Little Shaniqua, from Massapequa, went and bought a beeper so I could reach her.”
44. “Farmingdale (The Downtown)” by They Might Be Giants
These quirky alt-rockers-turned-children’s-musicians from Brooklyn released an ‘04 live album with this minute-long ode to The Downtown, a shuttered music venue in Farmingdale that is now Croxley’s Ale House. “I’m living on the bar food here, at The Downtown, they’ve got nuts, they’ve got crackers, they’ve got crazy.”
43. “Amityville” by Eminem
Rap groups from Onyx to Jedi Mind Tricks and even Wu Tang Clan have referenced The Amityville Horror. But Eminem used the notoriety of that mass murder as a dysphemism for his gritty hometown of Detroit in this ‘00 song off The Marshall Mathers LP. The chorus goes: “Mentally ill from Amityville, he’ll accidentally kill your family still, thinkin’ he won’t? God damn it he will.”
42. “Going to Port Washington” by The Mountain Goats
This North Carolina-based indie folk band has had an array of tunes featured in movies and on TV shows over the past decade, but one of their lesser-known songs released in ‘99 was inspired by driving across the Throg’s Neck Bridge, which they jokingly renamed in their lyrics. “The constellations aligned, and as we crossed over the Frogneck’s Bridge, I had something on my mind.”
41. “New Slaves” by Kanye West
Much like Amityville often gets referenced in rap lyrics implying bloodshed, the Hamptons frequently appears in hip hop narratives about living the high life, including songs by Mobb Deep and Gucci Mane. But Kanye is the only one to bash the Hamptons. “Fuck you and your Hampton house. I’ll fuck your Hampton spouse.” The Hamptons references go on, but get more graphic.
40. “Montauk” by Shadows Fall
This Massachusetts-based metal band has been nominated for several Grammy Awards, but only conspiracy theorists would recognize the meaning behind this track off their sophomore effort, Of One Blood, released in ’00. Electromagnetic mind control and “manipulation of space and time” that “the government denies” in a song with this title can only be about one thing: The Montauk Project.
39. “Real Playa Like” by Fabolous
While most rappers that mention the Hamptons do so in a passing reference, Brooklyn-based Fabolous really elaborated on his time there on this track off of his ‘07 album From Nothin’ to Somethin’. “On the way to LI, well I, coulda took the hell-eye, but we do more behind wheel, Hampton home, two floors for nine mil, real playa like two doors from Seinfeld.”
38. “Long Island Sound” by James McMurty
This Virginia-based Americana bandleader is best known for his single “Painting By Numbers” and “Sweet Suzanne,” a collaboration with John Mellencamp that appeared on the Falling from Grace soundtrack. But despite his southern roots, he gives a hat tip the LI and our most famous body of water. “Here’s to all you strangers, the Mets and the Rangers, long may we thrive on the Long Island Sound.”
37. “Brothers from Brentwood” by EPMD
Brentwood-forged hardcore rap duo EPMD line up bars on this ’92 Crossover cut and school listeners on how they chill in their rough-and-tumble Long Island hometown. “Brentwood’s my town home of beat-downs.”
36. “Polar Bear Club” by Silent Majority
This influential LI hardcore band is about as deep into the underground we let this list go. And they win the award for lone Gilgo lyric on this track off their debut ’97 album, Life of a Spectator. “In the sand at Gilgo Beach, in the year two thousand and sixteen, I’ll be 42 and so will you, in our chairs right by the sea.”
35. “Oyster Bay” by Billy Joel
Obviously we couldn’t write this list without including local legend The Piano Man and his many references to the area. This ’05 cut is dedicated to the simple times of living on the North Shore next to the body of water that his mansion overlooks. “Oh and Jesus Christ I wish that I was back in Oyster Bay, takin’ it easy…Oh yeah.”
34. “Long Island Degrees” by De La Soul
Among their many great contributions to the golden age of ’90s hip hop, this rap trio gave an ode to their hometown Long Island in ‘96. It includes references to the Long Island Sound and LIRR. “It’s strong island for real, where the critters run wild. The prefix is 516, the top of the dial.”
33. “Fire Island” by the Village People
As the name suggests, the costumed disco sextet from Manhattan wrote this song about the barrier island south of LI. This track on their ’77 self-titled debut album includes references to Fire Island’s LGBT community, including mentions of The Blue Whale and The Ice Palace, which are bars in the island’s gay resort destinations of Fire Island Pines and Cherry Grove, respectively. “Fire isla-and (fire, fire island), it’s a funky weekend (funky) a funky funky weeke-end.”
32. “Sinking and Swimming on Long Island” by Bayside
Even though this emo band hails from Queens, they have a few Long Island-inspired songs off their ’11 album, Killing Time. This one gets esoteric. “I was flying along the Long Island Sound, but fine’s polite and I’d rather things more profound.”
31. “Vibes and Stuff” by A Tribe Called Quest
Tribe, from Queens, delivered a mellow boom-bap track and, the late “5-foot assassin” Phife Dawg let everyone know in ’91 where his favorite spot to hang was. “Found my thrill in Amityville, I’m always in the Island.”
30. “John My Beloved” by Sufjan Stevens
From Detroit, Sufjan’s indie songs always reflects his personal experiences and his Christianity. His acoustic-driven vocals compare his relationship to that of Jesus Christ and his favorite disciple, John. ”My order of fries, Long Island kindness and wine” represents the last supper. Guess this time it’s on Long Island.
29. “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” by Billy Joel
Billy Joel plays himself in this ‘80 chart-topper while a fictional band manager tries to convince him to change his style for a newer, “hipper” sound, but the star kid won’t switch it up for anyone. The LI reference comes when he mentions cruisin’ the Miracle Mile, the high-priced shopping district in Manhasset.
28. “Strong Island” by Rakim
Rakim, half the legendary rap duo, Eric B. and Rakim, penned this gritty rap song for the Long Island neighborhood where he was raised. Released in ’99, Rakim shows his roots. “Growing up in Wyandanch, formerly known as Crime-danch”
27. “Hard Candy” by Counting Crows
A romantic Americana song released in ’02, “Hard Candy” recounts a man’s time with his favorite lady. Long Island’s beautiful Autumns were enough to bring the Counting Crows from Berkley, Calif. to the beaches of the Island. “And in the evenings on Long Island, when the colors start to fade, she wears a silly yellow hat, that someone gave her when she stayed.”
26. “The Long Island Sound” by Beirut
This New Mexico-based indie folk band’s brassy polka-ish little ditty released in ‘06 comes in at just over a minute long and is an instrumental with no lyrics, so it’s unclear if the song title a reference to the body of water off the North Shore, or what noises LI makes, but it does start out with what sounds like waves. It’s off their EP, Lon Gisland.
25. “Dangerous Ground” by Method Man
On this rap track off the Wu Tang Clan member’s second solo album that dropped in ’98, Tical 2000: Judgement Day, the Staten Island rapper gives a nod to the time he spent on LI. “One love to Long Island Hempstead in my heart baby.”
24. “Memory Motel” by The Rolling Stones
Mick Jagger pined for lost love in this rock ballad named for a real motel in Montauk. Released in 1976 , Carly Simon is the rumored companion on that night…“We spent a lonely night at the Memory Motel. It’s on the ocean I guess you know it well.”
23. “Leningrad” by Billy Joel
One of his lesser known songs in ’89 that Joel released is his signature ballad in homage to the Cold War Era.“But children lived in Levittown, And hid in the shelters underground.”
22. “Blood is Thicker” by Ma$e
It wasn’t only Kanye that didn’t have anything nice to rap about LI. On this track off of his second album, Double Up, which dropped in ’99, this Florida-based rapper says “Fuck Long Island,” along with pretty much everywhere else.
21. “National Anthem” by Lana Del Rey
No, it’s not that National Anthem. Released in ’12, the pop song features Lana’s signature lush voice on a song that does not mention the American flag at all. Instead, she sings, “take me to the Hamptons, Bugatti Veyron.”
20. “Play Crack the Sky” by Brand New
This local emo band likens breaking up with a girlfriend to a ship wreck off Montauk Point in this song of their ’03 album Deja Entednu. “In the shallows off the tip of Montauk Point, they call them rogues they travel fast and alone.”
19. “Soul Power” by Flavor Flav
The Public Enemy rapper from Roosevelt, Long Island and Method Man from Hempstead exchange their Long Island pride in the outro to this millennial comeback track released in 2011. “True Long Island right?”
18. “Gold” by Sleeping With Sirens
Pop rock band Sleeping With Sirens released, in 2015 were rumored to have made this record in light of their departure from Rise Records. The move is all about making your dreams come true and taking the time to look back on your mistakes. Such thoughts call for an appropriate backdrop. No wonder the opening verse would invoke Long Island’s beautiful sunsets to contemplate on which road will bring them closer to a gold record.
17. “Downeaster Alexa” by Billy Joel
In this song, Joel takes on the persona of a commercial fisherman. A Downeaster is a type of boat. And the vessel just happens to be named for Joel’s daughter, Alexa. The lyrics include references to the Block Island Sound, Montauk and Gardiner’s Bay.
16. “Big Bad Sister” by Mc Lyte
It’s a New York affair as Mc Lyte, from Brooklyn, lit up this cut off her ‘91 rap album: Act Like You Know. “Long Island is in the house, say what?”
15. “Meet me in Montauk” by Circa Survive
From Philadelphia, Circa Survives’ wonky track also taps Montauk as its muse and with its “Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind” reference baked right into the title and was released in 2005. But none of the lyrics actually mention LI or Montauk.
14. “New Americana” by Halsey
Kids are “getting high on legal marijuana” and “raised on Biggie and Nirvana” these days, as Halsey puts it. Observing pop culture has reflected changing times, the singer alludes to LI’s reputation as a destination for the jet set. “Survival of the richest, the city’s ours until the fall. They’re Monaco and Hamptons bound but we don’t feel like outsiders at all.”
13. “They Call Me Flava” by Public Enemy
Flavor Flav made everything funky in his time, a fact he bragged about on this light-hearted hip-hop track, with a shout out to Long Island, released in 2006. “ After dark, Centennial Park, go to Jones Beach, get on the back of a shark.”
12. “Long Island” by Mindy Smith
This local indie folk singer launched her career in Nashville and landed a few songs on TV, but her longing for LI comes through in her music. “Oh my soul craves to go home to Long Island shores again” are the opening lyrics on this track off her second album, Long Island Shores, released in ’06.
11. “The Ballad of Billy the Kid” by Billy Joel
According to this song, legendary Old West bandit is from “Oyster Bay, Long Island.” But at his concerts, Billy the Joel admitted that the lyrics to his ode to Western movie soundtracks are “bullshit” and no research was done prior to the song being made.
10. “My Man Rich” by Biz Markie
Your neighborhood pusha man was a cool guy from Long Island, as Biz Markie laid out in this narrative. Released in ’89 Mr, Markie, from Central Islip, offers a different perspective on the issue. “Around Suffolk he wasn’t known But in Eastern Long Island, he did have a home”
9. “Your Name Here (Sunrise Highway)” by Straylight Run
Singer John Nolan composes a melancholy indie rock song released in 2004 dedicated to one of Long Island’s biggest highways. His apartment’s location is laid out in the second verse, but don’t go looking for an autograph: the lyrics aren’t too exact.
8. “Seven English Girls” by Ron Pope
Ron Pope’s’ , heartfelt chords look back at good times with a now lost lover on Long Island after he takes his final stroll on a beach with her. LI is part of the chorus in this song. From Georgia Pope released the song in 2008. “And I won’t cry if you can’t love me like the way it used to feel, we had our summer on Long Island now there’s wounds that never heal.”
7. “What’s Happenin” by Method Man
Meth and Busta Rhymes bought the party all the way to Long Island with the hip-hop track “What’s Happening” which was released in 2004. “Brooklyn (come on!), Shaolin (come on!) Queensbridge down to Long Island (come on!)”
6. “Fire Island” by Fountains of Wayne
Best known for their ’03 hit single “Stacy’s Mom,” this New York City-based pop-punk band takes full advantage of their parents trip to Fire Island. Released in ’03, their lighthearted piano chords and sit back and chill lyrics highlight a nostalgic time in their youth. “All the kids from school, will be naked in our pool, while our parents are on Fire Island.”
5. “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” by Billy Joel
While it’s still up for debate whether the Italian restaurant that inspired this song,released in ’77, was actually on Long Island, Joel paints a vivid picture of Brenda and Eddie. Who knows where the two are now, but chances are they might be somewhere on LI.
4. “Guess Who’s Back” by Rakim
“Crimedanch” native Rakim—the the monk that wielded the sacred mic—mentioned Long Island in this heavy throwback. He tossed out his patented bravado, proving why he shouldn’t be messed with. “Deep as a Nautilus, you stay dipped in Ra’s style, From the shores of Long Island to Panama Canal.”
3. “Walk on the Wild Side” by Lou Reed
The Velvet Underground frontman was a Freeport native who relocated to New York City when his career took off, so it’s a safe bet that when he sang in ’72 on one of his biggest solo hits about how “Candy came out from the island,” he was referring to Long Island.
2. “We’ve Got the Jazz” by Tribe Called Quest
Once again Phife sends a shout out to Long Island on A-sides of Low End Theory. Released in 1991 the legendary cut if well known for its even more popular companion track: “Buggin Out.”
1. “Wonce Again Long Island” by De La Soul
About the only Long Island represent and chant track you’ll find, De La Soul deliver a shout-out to Long Island. “Man this be goin out to the kids from East Mass (Long Island), Amityville (Long Island), To all my people out in Wyandanch, Bay Shore (Long Island), C.I.’s in the place (Long Island).”
-With Timothy Bolger