November 11, 2006
These come from former WFMU DJ KBC's compilation A Garden State of Mind.
(All links are MP3s - right-click to download)
A long drive for the N.J. songSource: http://articles.philly.com/2014-09-03/news/53484681_1_red-mascara-official-state-song-brill-building
September 3, 2014
He has worked for years to get it OKd. A new film may help.
By Kevin Riordan, Inquirer Columnist
Red Mascara, 92, with his music sheet. He has campaigned for 54 years to have his song made the official state song. (AKIRA SUWA / Staff)
After Red Mascara, 92, wrote "I'm From New Jersey" in 1960, he started campaigning for it to become the official state song.
After 54 years, the effort "needs a spark," says Red, who was born Joseph Rocco Mascari in Phillipsburg, Warren County, where he still lives.
"Maybe this is the spark."
"This" is an almost-finished documentary by Daniel Goodman. His film also is called I'm From New Jersey, and its hero is a gentlemanly, self-taught tunesmith who refuses to give up.
I'm from New Jersey / and I'm proud about it / I love the Garden State
"I realized that his song really is all about what I was trying to talk about in my film," says Goodman, 30, who's raised $48,000 for the project through the Kickstarter online funding platform.
Goodman grew up in Teaneck, Bergen County. He's inspired by the power of his state's pugnacious image - and by Red's homespun, seemingly quixotic quest. New Jersey's would-be anthem has had to fight for respect, just like the state it celebrates.
I'm from New Jersey / and I want to shout it / I think it's simply great
Red got part of his nickname - which sounds like it might belong to a RuPaul Drag Race contestant - because "I used to have red hair."
Later, a secretary in the Brill Building, that legendary locus of midcentury Manhattan song publishing, wrote "Mascara" instead of "Mascari" when she took down his name.
Thus was born a moniker that comes in handy when Red drives to Trenton to lobby lawmakers.
"You've got to give the guy credit for perseverance," says state Sen. Richard Codey (D., Essex). "I've been [in Trenton] 41 years. He was here when I got here."
A retired chemical factory worker and great-grandfather of two, Red regularly makes the rounds of the Statehouse, giving out CD copies of the song, receiving smiles of support that don't amount to much. Legislation making the song official did reach Gov. William Cahill's desk in 1972, but he declined to sign it into law.
"I'm actually helping" Red's campaign, says Goodman. "This is an activist documentary."
I meet the two collaborators at Red's apartment, where the piano in the living room displays sheet music for "I'm From New Jersey." Frank Sinatra - Red's idol - is on the cover; a company owned by the singer published the song.
Red arranged to get it recorded by the Chordblenders in 1961 with the help of a $2,000 loan from his father. A variety of versions, some with lyrics customized for the state's cities (Camden included), are available on njstatesong.com, his website, for free.
"I've never made a dime from the song," Red says.
All of the other states throughout the nation / may mean a lot to some
Imagine a marching band song sung by a glee club. That's "I'm From New Jersey," which was retro when it was first recorded.
"It does sound a little bit old. But I really like it," says Christopher Matera, 16.
He's among the students in Lauren Schreiner's Delran High School English class who since 2012 have gotten behind "I'm From New Jersey" in a big way - and whose efforts are included in the film's trailer (imfromnewjersey.com).
Delran students wrote letters to legislators, and last spring, they hand-delivered petitions signed by more than 500 people supporting the song to Gov. Christie's office.
"The kids have put their heart and souls into it," says Schreiner, a veteran teacher who lives in Mount Laurel.
Red hopes Goodman's project will put him over the top. He feels great, and has no plans to quit.
"When you have a dream and a goal, you don't give up. It sounds cliched, but Red is the living embodiment of that to me," Goodman says.
Prospects of state anthemhood for "I"m From New Jersey" remain uncertain, however.
"I can't wave a wand and say, 'This is the song.' I can't guarantee this will get done," Codey says. "But I sure hope and pray it can, for his sake. Because the spirit and class he's shown is a tribute to him. And to our state."
But I wouldn't want another / Jersey is like no other / I'm glad that's where I'm from.