Sing Books with Emily, the Blog

New York State of Mind, An Illustrated Song

Posted on: September 19, 2010


New York State of Mind

Words and Music by Billy Joel
Illustrated by IZAK
Scholastic Press, New York, 2005
ISBN 0-439-55382-2

The pictures in this book are created by Izak Zenou (IZAK is the single name, like Cher, written on the cover) who is a renowned fashion illustrator.  The pictures are fabulous watercolors that evoke the “cool” of New York, but his use of warm colors and depiction of classic New York locations (like Central Park’s Bethesda Fountain, the Empire State Building, and Radio City Music Hall done up for the Christmas Spectacular), visited by courting pooches, give the city a feeling that is simultaneously cozy and exciting.

Learn more about Izak Zenou at his website:


Billy Joel’s official site: offers a useful timeline of the songwriter’s life:

This wiki article is helpful:

VIDEOS (a few of my favorites)
Soooooooooooooo 70’s.  Yum.  That sax is delish.  I love his piano solo at the beginning and the middle.  He’s playing, literally playing, and having fun.  That makes it fun.

The Muppets
Whenever possible, I study The Muppets!

Barbra Steisand

Mel Torme
(Mr. Torme sings a new set of lyrics for places he’s been.  I don’t know what Billy must have thought, but the Velvet Fog is in good form.)

Tony Bennett

Joanna Wang

This is the arrangement of lyrics as found in the book.

Words and Music by Billy Joel

Some folks like to get away, take a holiday from the neighborhood.
Hop a flight to Miami Beach or to Hollywood.
But I’m taking a Greyhound on the Hudson River Line.
I’m in a New York state of mind.

I’ve seen all the movie stars in their fancy cars and their limousines;
been high up in the Rockies under the evergreens.
But I know what I’m needing and I don’t want to waste more time,
I’m in a New York state of mind.

It was so easy living day by day, out of touch with the rhythm and blues.
But now I need a little give and take, the New York Times, The Daily News.

It comes down to reality and it’s fine with me ‘cause I’ve let it slide.
Don’t care if it’s Chinatown or on Riverside.
I don’t have any reasons, I’ve left them all behind.
I’m in a New York state of mind.

I’m just taking a Greyhound on the Hudson River Line,
‘Cause I’m in a New York state of mind.

“New York State of Mind” is sung by the Muppet, Rowlf the Dog on his album, “Ol’ Brown Ears is Back,”

NEW YORK STATE OF MIND was included in, “Oh, What a Beautiful Day: Sing Books with Emily, the Cabaret,” so I gave ti the Song Craft Worksheet treatment:

 Emily’s Song Craft Worksheet

Because the first section of the Song Craft Worksheet involves background research on the song, I’ll share the answers with you so you can know about the song, too.  The more about the song you know (both concrete facts and less tangible artistic choices), the more “authority,” and heart and soul you can put into the singing and sharing of the song with others.  If you are interested in improving your artistic abilities for singing songs in any capacity, just simply filling out the Song Craft Worksheet is a great place to start!  After the background research, the rest of the Song Craft Worksheet gets VERY personal…don’t worry!  I won’t bore you with that.

1 Q: Who wrote the words?
1 A: Billy Joel

2Q: Who wrote the music?
2A: Billy Joel

3Q: When was the song written?
3A: The sheet music has 1975 for the copyright.

4A: At what point in the lyricists’ and composer’s career was the song written?
4Q: “Turnstiles” is  Billy Joel’s 4th album, but he’s still towards the beginning of his career.  He was 35 when he released the album, he’s 62 now (Sep. 2010).  It’s incredible to think of a young person writing such fabulous music that has worked its way into the fabric of our culture.

5Q: What is the song from?
5A: The song first appeared on Billy Joel’s 1976 album, “Turnstiles”

6Q: If from a show, what character sang it?
6A: NA

7Q: If from a show, from what situation does the song arise?  Why does the character sing the song?  What function does the song/character play in the story?
7A: NA

8Q:  What other contextual elements of the song are significant?
8A: For me: New York is my favorite city on earth.  Also, Billy Joel figures prominently in the soundtrack of my childhood.

9Q: Was the song written for a particular singer?  Why?
9A: Himself

10Q: If not from a show, why did the songwriter write the song?
10A:  Billy Joel wrote this song when he was transitioning his life from LA where he’d lived for a few years back to New York City where he grew up (he was born in the Bronx in 1949) and responding to the overwhelming emotions of that move.

11Q: What do you feel the lyricist is trying to say?
11A: New York is a great city.  It’s a great place to escape to, providing WORLDS of fabulous things to see and do.  It is a wonderful place to just BE, discover, and create yourself. New York is an inspired and inspiring city with soul and it fills its residents with awe and wonder.  New York City is exciting, bewildering, dangerous and thrilling and the experience of being there (or even thinking of being there) is as awesome and exciting as anywhere else on earth.

12Q: Does the song tell a story or just express feelings or ideas?
12A: This song does all of that for me…it tells a story and it expresses feelings and ideas.

13Q: Who else has recorded this song:
13A: Dame Shirley Bassey, Barbra Steisand, Mel Torme, Tony Bennett, The Muppets (Floyd and Dr. Teeth Band and by Rowlf the Dog), Joanna Wang and many others!

The rest of the questions require VERY personal answers and I will spare you those!

Related Posts


The song list for Emily’s Singable Picture Book Cabaret:

The Illustrated Songs of Billy Joel


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