WoW #13: Popa Chubby – “Back To New York City”

Popa Chubby – “Back To New York City”

Time to kickstart a new year at Who Is Blues and to do some looking back forward.

Picture me craning my neck from my birthplace on the south shore of Long Island to catch a glimpse of big city life in Manhattan. I didn’t much like the blandness of the suburbs growing up, so I made the move at 18, getting to know the heart of The Beast intimately during the drab, depressed, rodent-infested 1980s.

At the same time, Bronx native Ted Horowitz (aka Popa Chubby) was making a name for himself as a singer and guitarist at gloriously rowdy places like Dan Lynch’s Blues Bar on Second Avenue and 14th Street and Manny’s Car Wash up on Third Avenue and 88th Street. Chubby hosted a blues jam there before launching into a recording career that has seen him release roughly two dozen albums since the early 90s.

“Back To New York City,” from his 2011 album of the same name, sings Gotham’s praises while suggesting that 1970s New York may have been even shabbier and smellier than the one I experienced a decade later.

“It’s about a desperate reconnection to my soul,” explained Chubby during an interview around the time of its release. “New York holds your soul and never lets go. The city gets inside you. I’ve been away so much and for so long. But as much as it changes, New York is my soul and I am the King Of The New York City Blues.”

The song, which owes a great debt to Horowitz’s hero Jimi Hendrix, paints a romanticized portrait of the seedy New York of his youth. It also bemoans the commercialization and gentrification of his old turf that has occurred since.

“Times Square was where we went as kids to hang out,” he says. “To buy switchblades and fake ID’s. Kung Fu movies and, yes, whores walking the street while big hat, dressed-to-kill pimps watched. Now? It’s Disneyland. So I do protest a bit as well.”

Here’s Popa Chubby traveling through time and space “Back To New York City.”

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