The Brooklyn Gentrification Blues, in Literal Song-Form

But do you need a passport to cross here? (NO.)

Gentrification conjures up real feelings of grief for Brooklyn native Jeff Alexander. So much so that he’s been writing literal blues music about the hordes of latte-swilling yuppies that have descended upon Kings County and given it a vaunted cultural cachet.

From the far reaches of rusty Bushwick to the salty air of Red Hook Harbor, the yuppies are winning, and the common man can’t get no relief—at least that’s the sentiment behind “Blues for Brooklyn.” Performed by Alexander’s band, Larry Thurston and the School for Fools, the song is a lament about the current state of the borough, replete as is it with real estate developers, marketing executives, and a constantly swelling professional class that’s transformed Brooklyn from its working-class beginnings.

Alexander calls himself a “Brooklyn homing pigeon” in an email, because he’s left the borough six or seven times (he can’t really recall), only to find himself journeying back to his homeland on every occasion. This song is all about Alexander’s difficult love-affair with Brooklyn, after he’s watched it morph at the whims of people who came here from Virginia, California, Utah, Ohio, and basically any place that is not actually New York City.

Here are the lyrics in full:

You can’t go home again, talkin’ bout where I come from

Who said you can’t go home again, been talkin’ bout where I come from

I sure would like to stay here, looks like the good old days are done

Some folks I’ve known about forty years, others about fifteen or twenty

There’s folks I know on forty years, others only fifteen or twenty

When I see the price of living here, might as well not have a penny

I got the blues for Brooklyn, one place I thought I’d always fit in

When I see the price of living here, might as well not have a penny

I got the blues for Brooklyn, one place I thought I’d always fit in

Y’know I’d like to call it home, but I can’t find my way back in

Workin’ man can’t live here, less he bought in a long time ago

You know a working’ stiff can’t live here less he bought in a long time ago

Me, I been out lookin,’ now I’d like to light back home

The yuppies drove the prices up, and all those other wannabes

The yuppies just keep coming, and the people from over every sea

Big Demand in New York City, populace multiply like fleas

But I hear that Brooklyn accent, and I know I’m back at home

Catch that New York sense of humor, makes me feel I’m not alone

Y’know I’d like to stay here, just be wishing on a star

Work two jobs to pay my rent, more to insure my car

If you watch the lyric video below, you’ll notice that the band calls Brooklyn Magazine out for not respecting the borough’s classic soul and doo-wop groups. To which we’d like to say: Thanks for the shout-out. We’ve certainly never written about anything having to do with that kind of music or just old school Brooklyn in general. Not once.

Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 12.56.42 PM

Watch the video below:

Follow Sam Blum on Twitter @Blumnessmonster 

 

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for featuring Blues For Brooklyn.
    We didn’t really have time to communicate properly, here are the full lyrics.
    Page 1
    Blues For Brooklyn
    © & (P) 2002 Jeff Alexander , as administered by Cousin Moe Music, Inc/ BMI
    You can’t go home again,
    Been talkin’ bout where I come from.
    Who said you can’t go home again,
    Been talkin’ bout where I come from.
    I sure would like to stay here,
    Looks like the good old days are done.

    Some folks I know bout 40 years,
    Others only 15 or 20.
    There’s folks I know on 40 years,
    Others only 15 or 20.
    When I see the price of living here,
    Might as well not have a penny.

    I got the blues for Brooklyn,
    One place I thought I’d always fit in.
    Got the blues, blues for Brooklyn,
    A place I always thought I’d fit in.
    Y’know I’d like to call it home,
    But I can’t buy my way back in.

    Workin’ man can’t live where he came from,
    Less he bought in a long time ago.
    Workin’ man can’t live where he came from,
    Less he bought in a long time ago.
    Me I been out looking’,
    Now I’d like to light back home.

    The yuppies drove the prices up,
    And all the other wannabe’s.
    The yuppies just keep coming,
    And the people from over every sea.
    Big demand in N.Y.C.,
    Populace multiply like fleas.

    But I hear that Brooklyn accent,
    I know I’m back at home.
    Catch that New York sense of humor,
    Makes me feel I’m not alone.

    Y’know I’d like to stay here,
    Just be wishing on a star.
    Work 2 jobs just to pay my rent,
    One more to insure my car.

    Repeat First Verse
    Repeat Chorus

  2. Hi Sam,
    Thanks for considering another view & posting my song & video. And skillfully presenting it in a way people will watch it.. We never had to time to communicate beyond a couple of lines each in our emails……Just a few notes to approach some clarification for the readers.
    All of New York City, including Brooklyn, has always been home to immigrants from everywhere. Anyone who grew up here grew up with people from everywhere. The adaptation, the humanity in the struggle and beauty of living in NYC, the becoming a NYer, and an maybe an American, or growing up as a NYer or a Brooklynite,and a citizen of the world, were organic things. Never need to be examined under a microscope, or labeled. We learned what we learned because of who we grew up with and how we had to grow up. Even if you came up in a cushy neighborhood, you always had to think on your toes. NYC was the best place to grow up cause if you grew up right, by the time you were on your own, nothing ever surprised you. And you could deal… ………NYers and Brooklynites don’t have a monopoly on great human attributes. There’s great people from everywhere. But we are / were different, and we are often far more concentrated when it comes to expressing ourselves..
    The kids & artists that came to Northern Brooklyn when it was a cheap place to live, they were coming without tons of pretension and without many airs of b.s.. And probably without much of their folks dough. Though I’m not posing that everyone who comes here now is doing the following, they weren’t coming to Brooklyn to be cool, or to be inspired, or because Brooklyn is hot & sexy.. They often came to Brooklyn cause they were broke or close to it, and needed to be in NYC to accomplish what they wished.
    A big chunk of these last recent rounds of massive immigration to here. , well, without offering a thorough examination and without being conclusive, it’s been marketed And everything occurs at premium squared costs..Much of it is a manipulation of smoke and mirrors. Thousands, or tens of thousands of businessmen, real estate people & developers included, making fortunes pitching a Brooklyn that isn’t connected to what life in Brooklyn was historically like or about ( subjects for another time) , and all kinds of businesses that have nothing to do with Brooklyn naming themselves Brooklyn this and Brooklyn that. You can’t bottle Brooklyn.
    My mention of Brooklyn Magazine- well, They Might Be Giants certainly aren’t The Original Brooklyn Band. As that article about them was titled. For that matter, they’re only a band based in Brooklyn.

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