New York City, the capital of the world, the city that never sleeps, the center of it all, call it whatever you want. The UFC finally debuts at #MadisonSquareGarden, exactly 23 years to the day after the promotion’s first event, with UFC 205, the biggest fight in mixed martial arts history.
And while America’s melting pot is priming itself to be a new epicenter for MMA, New York has long since been a Mecca for the arts, beyond the mixed martial variety. In honor of the occasion, it’s worth a deep dive into the music of New York, about New York, by the artists of New York.
The musical contributions of the city are far beyond any singular genre. From the nascent punk and post-punk scene at the Bowery’s CBGB, which birthed bands like the Ramones and Talking Heads, to the emerging hip hop of the 80s and 90s from groups and artists like the Beastie Boys, A Tribe Called Quest, and The Notorious B.I.G., New York has been a constant when it comes to undeniable sonic contributions.
Artists like Lou Reed and his Velvet Underground, which later became a huge influence on the early aughts rock revival and bands like The Strokes, Interpol, TV on the Radio, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, hailed from New York. As did original KISS lead guitarist Ace Frehley, the “Spaceman,” whose “Back in the New York Groove” became an iconic anthem for the bright lights and city life.
Billy Joel, who, like Frehley, hails from the Bronx, has likely written more songs about New York than anyone else. Disco legend and Svengali producer Nile Rodgers, another New York native, penned some of the late seventies most memorable dance tracks with Chic.
Stevie Wonder, a Michigan native, may not be from New York, but the city was certainly an influence on some of his finer work. And, the aptly named Brazilian Girls are also imports who’ve left an impression on the artier side of the rock-jazz-pop fusion scene that built up around label Verve Records.
The Verve connection is a natural segue into Frank Sinatra, a New Jersey native whose rendition of the John Kander-penned “Theme From New York, New York” remains one of the most iconic songs about the “Big Apple.” And beyond the legends, obscure artists like James Chance and the Contortions, and Barry Devorzon, who composed the soundtrack for the late seventies cult classic “The Warriors,” also found inspiration in New York.
On the heavier side, bands like Cro-Mags, lead by BJJ black belt Harley Flanagan, and Anthrax helped birth entire genres, as the former was instrumental in the rise of hardcore, and the latter laid the framework for rap-rock with their “Bring the Noise” collaboration with Public Enemy.
New York City is truly one of the most important arts and cultural centers on Earth. And on November 12, mixed martial arts begins its stay in the capital of the world with UFC 205.