NEW JERSEY - At Jersey 4 Jersey, famous Jersey Girls and Jersey Guys threw their musical support last night to raise up the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund, a COVID-19 charity spearheaded by New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy. Rock and Roll royalty and famous comics threw jabs, but the real stars were the medical and first responder personnel featured in the program. The songs chosen by the performers were solid tracks that lyrically traveled the Garden State's highways and backroads, or that drove the spirit of love and support that is the underlying goal of the fund.
Here are the songs, in order, as they were performed last night:
"Land of Hope and Dreams" performed by Bruce Springsteen and his wife Patti Scialfa. This is a song about everyone belonging, and nobody being left behind. It is often one of the concluding songs of a Springsteen concert with a stageful of singers and musicians. Last night, this often-rousing standard was performed as a mellow acoustic ballad.
"Do What You Can," a new song performed by Jon Bon Jovi, captured the feelings inherent in our current state shutdown with a refrain encouraging New Jerseyans to rethink what they can do when they can't live how they usually live.
"Beautiful Stranger" by Halsey is a contemporary song about "finally being safe" and developing trust. This talented young woman is from Edison.
"20 Something" is SZA's song about insecurity, fear, loss, and ultimately hope for herself and her fellow twenty-somethings.
"Growin' Up," a song written by Bruce Springsteen during an earlier generation, was given new relevance in a soulful version delivered by Charlie Puth. The Rumson singer also released his new song "Sick" yesterday. If you watched the concert, you also know that his dog, who wandered around Puth's room during the taping, was the hit of the whole show. The black Labrador, also named Charlie, was adopted from the Humane Society in December.)
"Smile" by 93-year-old Tony Bennett was a heartbreakingly wonderful rendition of an American standard. "Smile though your heart is breaking. You'll see that life is still worthwhile."
"Hackensack" as performed by Fountains of Wayne with Sharon Van Etten is a sad song about a loved one lost to fame: "But I will wait for you as long as I need to
And if you ever get back to Hackensack, I'll be here for you." This time, though, the song was a call to Emmy and Grammy-winning songwriter Adam Schlesinger who lost his life to COVID-19 this month.
"Jersey Girl" is a Springsteen crowd-pleaser. Written by Tom Waits, the song captures the things that drag down and lift up middle-class New Jerseyans: hard work and kids, a bit of makeup and a night at a carnival. "'Cause down the shore, everything's alright, me and my baby on a Saturday night."
"Livin' on a Prayer" was performed soulfully by Jon Bon Jovi, who closed the show, singing familiar words that ring a little differently during a pandemic: "We gotta hold on to what we've got. It doesn't make a difference if we make it or not. We've got each other and that's a lot for love. We'll give it a shot." This time, maybe, the song was not so much about a personal relationship between Tommy and Gina, but a state-wide one among all of us in New Jersey.
The credits rolled over Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes rocking out to "Better Days" as images of hospitals, doctors, nurses, patients, and other essential workers showed energy and strength. "Better days are comin'. We're gonna wake up and break this curse. Better days are on the way 'cause you know and I know it can't get no worse."
The New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund (NJPRF) was launched March 24, 2020 to marshal resources to meet critical needs and fight the economic and social impact of COVID-19 within New Jersey.
NJPRF will provide grants to existing organizations with a demonstrated track record of caring for vulnerable communities. One hundred percent of every dollar received online by NJPRF will go to organizations that provide essential services to those in need and to assist those on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Donations to the NJPDRF are accepted here.
*Note: I would like to include on this list a nostalgic song often performed by New Jersey guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, who also recently passed from COVID-19 at age 94: "I Like Jersey Best" "The Pinelands and the Vinelands, Seaside Heights, Margate. You can have Miami, I love the Garden State. I've been a lot of places, seen pictures of the rest, but of all the places I can think of, I like Jersey best." ...Editor