Jersey Shore Keeps Old People Young
Still in the shadow of neighboring New York, New Jersey often doesn’t get its due. The Garden State, however, will always be close to singer-songwriter Steve Forbert’s heart.
Forbert, whose new album is aptly called Move across America after spending decades traveling to concerts from state to state, he grew up far from New Jersey in Meridian, Mississippi. He traveled to New York to make his mark in the music world and found New Jersey to be home.
“In the early ’80s, I found the Jersey Shore to be a fun place — not too far from town, a perfect getaway,” says Forbert. “I spent a few weekends there and really liked it, mainly because of the music scene. A lot of people on the Shore basically live for rock ‘n’ roll, and Bruce Springsteen confirmed that with good faith all over the world.
Springsteen saxophonist Clarence Clemons opened a Jersey Shore club called Big Man’s West in Red Bank in 1981, and Forbert played shows there. Red Bank, which today is called “the Greenwich Village of the Garden State”, is about a 90-minute drive south of midtown Manhattan.
Forbert met Diane DeFazio at Red Bank in 1982, and they began dating. But they separated – each married and had children – until they reunited in New Jersey in 2001.
“After my divorce in 2001, I saw Diane at one of my shows in Long Branch and then called her,” Forbert recalled. “We became more serious with each other and I spent more and more time on the Jersey Shore. The Shore still had some of the old magic, and I loved being back in that area. It took me a while to recognize it for what it really is: a rock ‘n’ roll Never-Never-Land.
“It may be the only place in America where an older generation still holds a bit of influence in the nightlife scene,” says Forbert. “A 65-year-old man can spend time socializing and not feel totally behind. Every city I know is overrun on weekend nights by youth culture. Asbury Park has a youth culture too, of course, but that hasn’t erased a good time for the elderly. I got to know a lot of people, made some good friends, recorded my last two albums with producer Steve Greenwell and even exhibited some of my photography at art629 in Asbury Park. The walk itself is a good thing. On sunny evenings, you’ll see people from all walks of life just being themselves, strolling along the boardwalk, enjoying an evening by the ocean.
New Jersey is just one of 49 states where Forbert has performed. He never played in Hawaii. Outside the United States, he has given concerts in Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Finland, Holland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Japan, Canada, England, Ireland and Scotland.
The trip to almost every state helped shape his identity and his music.
“All these American trips make me who I am,” says Forbert. “A perfect example would be the title track of my new album Move across America. The song describes a 10-day solo tour I did in the Midwest in January 2017. It’s a travelogue about places and feelings that I enjoyed. If you listen to the entire album, I check the names from Palo Alto, CA; Gainesville, Florida; Madison, Wis.; Houston, TX; Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Forbert says he typically stays in “old-fashioned motels” where a parking space is adjacent to a bedroom’s front door. He vividly remembers waking up one night in such a motel about 12 years ago, because “a creature” was “furiously climbing up the curtain”. He opened the door to let the animal out and assumed it had escaped. The next day he got down to look under the bed. “There in the dark, leaning against the wall, was a big, wide-eyed cat staring at me,” he recalls.
A stretch of Colorado highway he’s driven more than once stirs other memories.
“One American route that left a lasting impression on me was the Colorado 550 descent from Grand Junction to Durango,” says Forbert. “It takes you through the mountains on a fairly precarious so-called highway. You wonder how they even built it – just a two-lane planed mountainside road with lots of hairpin bends and no guardrails.
New Orleans is his favorite place to rest and relax.
“The French Quarter is like being in a foreign country without the hassle of travel and language barriers,” says Forbert. “It’s the local food, architecture, music and characters that make New Orleans such a great destination.”
Listeners may enjoy getting a glimpse of other destinations when they hear Move across America. As he states on his website, “Steve Forbert is still touring America, and with his latest album, he’s taking us with him.”