June 21, 1977
Fred Ebb, John Kander
"Theme from New York, New York" (or "New York, New York") is the theme song from the Martin Scorsese film New York, New York (1977), composed by John Kander, with lyrics by Fred Ebb. It was written for and performed in the film by Liza Minnelli. It remains one of the best-known songs about New York City. In 2004 it finished #31 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema.
In 1979, "Theme from New York, New York" was re-recorded by Frank Sinatra for his album Trilogy: Past Present Future (1980), and has since become closely associated with him. He occasionally performed it live with Minnelli as a duet. Sinatra recorded it a second time for his 1993 album Duets, with Tony Bennett.
The first line of the song is:
Start spreadin' the news, I'm leaving today
I want to be a part of it: New York, New York.
The song concludes with the line:
If I can make it there, I'm gonna make it anywhere,
It's up to you, New York, New York.
Minnelli's original recording of the song (also used in the Tony Bennett version in Duets) uses the following closing line:
If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere,
Come on come through, New York, New York.
It should not be confused with the song "New York, New York", from Leonard Bernstein/Adolph Green/Betty Comden's musical On the Town (1944), which features the lyric "New York, New York, it’s a helluva town / The Bronx is up and the Battery's down..."
Composers Kander and Ebb stated on the A&E Biography episode about Liza Minnelli, that they attribute the song's success to actor Robert De Niro, who rejected their original theme for the film because he thought it was "too weak".
The song did not become a popular hit until it was picked up in concert by Frank Sinatra during his performances at Radio City Music Hall in October 1978. (It was not even nominated for the Academy Award for 'Best Song'). Subsequently, Sinatra recorded it in 1979 for his 1980 Trilogy set (Reprise Records), and it became one of his signature songs. The single peaked at #32 in June 1980, becoming his final Top Forty charting hit. Sinatra made two more studio recordings of the song in 1981 (for his NBC TV special The Man and His Music) and 1993 (for Capitol Records). From the latter, an electronic duet with Tony Bennett was produced for Sinatra's Duets album.
The lyrics of the Sinatra versions differ slightly from Ebb's original lyrics. Notably, the phrase "A-number-one", which does not appear at all in the original lyrics, is sung twice at the song's rallentando climax. (Ebb has said he "didn't even like" Sinatra's use of "A-number-one"). The phrase is both the first and fourth on a list of three superlative titles the singer strives to achieve — "A-number-one, top of the list, king of the hill, A-number-one" — where Ebb's original lyrics (performed by Minnelli) were "king of the hill, head of the list, cream of the crop, at the top of the heap."
Despite Sinatra's version becoming more familiar, original singer Minnelli had two of the tune's most memorable live performances – during the July 4, 1986 ceremony marking the rededication of the Statue of Liberty after extensive renovations, and in the middle of the seventh inning of a New York Mets game, that was the first pro sports event in the metro area after the September 11, 2001 attacks. She also sang it in the Olympic stadium during the 1984 Summer Olympics, accompanied by 24 pianos and strobe lights.
In popular culture
The song has been embraced as a celebration of New York City, and is often heard at New York-area social events, such as weddings and bar mitzvahs. Many sports teams in the New York area have played this song in their arenas/stadiums, but the New York Yankees are the most prominent example. It has been played over the loudspeakers at both the original and current Yankee Stadiums at the end of every Yankee home game since July 1980. Originally, Sinatra's version was played after a Yankees win, and the Minnelli version after a loss. However, due to a complaint from Minnelli, the Sinatra version is now heard regardless of the game's outcome. As of the 2005 season, at the Richmond County Bank Ballpark following Staten Island Yankees games, the Sinatra version is heard regardless of the game's outcome, and was formerly done at Shea Stadium at the end of New York Mets games after the September 11, 2001 attack. Previously, Mets fans felt it was a "Yankee song", and began booing it when it was played. It actually first had snippets of the song played after World Series home runs by Ray Knight and Darryl Strawberry during Game 7 of the 1986 World Series. The song is also sometimes played at New York Knicks games. The Sinatra version is played at the end of every New York Rangers game at Madison Square Garden. It was played at the opening faceoff of Game 7 of the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals at the Garden. The song has also been the post parade song for the Belmont Stakes from 1997 to 2009, and again from 2011 to the present. Sinatra's version of the song has been played at the end of all four Super Bowls that the New York Giants have won to date, as well as before kickoff of Super Bowl XLVIII, while Minnelli's version was heard after the Giants' Super Bowl XXXV loss.
The song was the musical basis for Jimmy Picker's 1983 three-minute animated short, Sundae in New York, which won the Academy Award for Best Short Film (Animated) that year, with a likeness of then-mayor Ed Koch somewhat stumbling through the song, with clay caricatures of New York-based celebrities (including Alfred E. Neuman) and finishing the song with "Basically I think New York is very therapeutic. Hey, an apple a day is...uh...great for one's constitution!" and burying his face in a big banana split with "THE END" written on his bald head. (Koch used the same rallentando climax Sinatra used, albeit with one big difference: "A-number one, top of the list, king of the hill..." followed by his impression of Groucho Marx completing, "...and incidentally a heckuva nice guy!")
An instrumental version of the song is used as the main theme music for NBC's broadcasts of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The song is also played a few seconds after the ball drop in Times Square every New Year's, after "Auld Lang Syne".
In DreamWorks' Madagascar (2005), the song is introduced in Central Park Zoo, and Marty later sings the song in the midst of Alex the Lion's delirium.
Professional wrestling trio New Day performed their own version of the song during the August 24, 2015 episode of WWE Raw from Brooklyn, New York, while they were making their entrance.
In the 2015 James Bond film Spectre, the instrumental introduction of the song was played inside the Aston Martin DB10 for a few seconds, when Bond presses one of the control buttons during a car chase scene in Rome.
The song can be heard in the pilot episode of Blue Bloods which aired September 24, 2010.
Queen band made a brief version of the song (in synth manner), for the soundtrack of the film "Highlander". This version does not appear on any official Queen release.