Wikipedia has compiled a comprehensive list of songs about New York that has more than 500 titles. I came up with a more selective list of eleven favorite songs from my gay perspective. Although none are explicitly gay in content they have a gay "sensibility", either because of the performers or simply because I own the CDs/records. Here they are:
I Happen to Like New York. This is my most favorite, a love letter to New York written by Cole Porter and powerfully sung by Judy Garland. I first heard it on Jonathan Schwartz's radio show on WNYC in the early 1980's and it was years before I tracked it down on CD.
Native New Yorker. This is the most commercially successful of the songs on this list. It was popular in the winter of 1977-78, the year before I moved to New York. It's instantly recognizable by its saxophone intro.
New York City Rhythm. This song was recorded during Barry Manilow's peak popularity in the late 1970's (when he still had a human-looking face). I always enjoyed his tip of the hat to NYC's Latino population with the "Nueva York" interlude near the end of the song.
Manhattan Shuffle. A light and bouncy dance tune from 1980 with a percolating beat. (By the appropriately named group Area Code 212.) It's about how one has to hustle and sustain blows to self-esteem to make it big in New York: "In the city of dreams, built up on plenty of schemes ...
(Take Me For) A Night in New York. From 1984, the song's Big Band style by Elbow Bones & the Racketeers brings to mind Dr. Buzzard or Manhattan Transfer.
New York City Boy. Not be be confused with the 60's song Boy from New York City by the Ad Libs, this danceable trifle by the Pet Shop Boys evokes images of Chelsea, Hell's Kitchen and the West Village. Sample lyric: "So young, so run into New York City". The video for the song is a fun one, about a boy being drawn to the City from the suburbs.
New York, New York. Not the Sinatra classic, but rather an ode to NYC's decadent nightlife by Moby and his signature electronica style, with vocals by Deborah Harry. It's by far the newest of this list's songs, released in 2006.
New York, You Got Me Dancing. Former porn actress Andrea True is best known for her disco hit More, More, More. Her far less popular follow-up (at least with mainstream audiences), New York, You Got Me Dancing, pays tribute to some of New York's gay dance clubs of the mid-to-late 1970's.
New York by Night. This song celebrates the alluring and tawdry side of NYC nightlife in the late 70's/early 80's. Its chorus sums up the sentiment: "This is New York by night, this is New York by night, filled with laughter, drama, glamour and spice (such a pretty city)". It was sung by Dennis Parker, a porn actor who was later signed by Casablanca Records to record a disco album. Sadly, he committed suicide in 1985 after being diagnosed with AIDS.
In The Evening. This great dance number from the mid-1980's was sung by Sheryl Lee Ralph, a few years after her star turn on Broadway as Deanna Jones in Dreamgirls (the role played by Beyonce in the movie version). The song contrasts daytime life in New York, with all its hassles, with the glamor of its nightlife. As Sheryl Lee sings, "New York, life in the city can be so hard. But after dark, new energy finds me, I light up the night and live like a star! In the evening ...
Am I Ever Going to Fall in Love in New York City? This song is from Grace Jones' second album Fame. Hearing it always makes me chuckle because of the verse about her "being so far away from Tennessee". Of course, thinking of Grace growing up in Tennessee is funny, but in actuality she grew up in the equally unglamorous snowbelt city of Syracuse.