Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Ninja Burglar Begets Staten Island Musician Exploration

Apropos of nothing, I came across this Gothamist post Tuesday afternoon alerting me to the closure of the Staten Island- Ninja Burglar ca
se. For those who don’t know me, I grew up on Staten Island and I never got over it. The Ninja Burglar has been terrorizing my home island for the better part of a year, supposedly marauding around in a ninja costume and wielding nunchucks. The story was sensational news not only for The Staten Island Advance , but also for various other cities and some national outlets. Even the venerable New Yorker spared some ink for this guy. The closure of the case proved much less interesting however – turns out the culprit was probably some Albanian guy who may have been operating as part of a small Albanian burglary ring.

Lame, but it inspired this brief “who’s who” of Staten Island musicians both past and present. We begin, obviously, with one of the Island’s best-known musical exports, the Wu-Tang Clan. Wu-Tang’s nine original members dubbed their hometown as Shaolin, in homage to the Kung Fu movie “Shaolin and Wu Tang.,” which also inspired the group’s name. Ninjas, Kung Fu, you get the picture.

But that’s not all! Christina Aguilera was born on Staten Island, and so was Joan Baez. I’m inclined to give Baez more credit since she actually lived on the Island until she was two and, you know, she’s Joan Baez. Composer George M. Cohan (You’re a Grand Old Flag, Give My Regards to Broadway) took up residence in West Brighton for a time. Ann Duquesnay, the co-composer and lyricist of “Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk,” still lives on the North Shore. David Johansen, aka Buster Poindexter, member of the punk band New York Dolls, is a graduate of Port Richmond High School. (I don’t actually know who this guy is, but most of you probably don’t know anything about Port Richmond High School either. Johansen’s Wikipedia page refers to the New York Dolls as a “seminal” punk band, which makes him important enough for inclusion on my list.) Gene Simmons went to college on Staten Island. Who knew Gene Simmons went to college at all? More recently, singer songwriter Ingrid Michaelson called the Island home – you know, the sweater commercial?

And I bet you thought Staten Island was a cultureless wasteland, if you thought about it at all. Shame on you.

- Ashley Herriman (Contributing Writer)


Anonymous said...

This is a fantastic article. Personally, I was shocked to hear Aguilera was born in SI since we all know she's so latin and puts out Spanish only records.

Anonymous said...

This is amazing... Who DID know that gene simmons went to college? I've still never even been to Staten Island. This must change - I demand a musical-history-tour.