Song Lyric Sunday — Lights Go Out On Broadway

When Helen Vahdati chose “lights” as the theme for this week’s Song Lyric Sunday prompt, I had to go with Billy Joel’s “Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway).”

This song, written and originally recorded by Billy Joel, appeared as the final song on his Turnstiles album in 1976. Several of his live performances, including his very emotional performance at The Concert for New York City for victims of the September 11 attacks in 2001, have been recorded.

According to Joel, it’s a “science fiction song” about an apocalypse occurring in New York as a result of concerns that the city was failing in the 1970s. He explained that he wrote the song while living in Los Angeles in 1975, when New York City was on the verge of bankruptcy and the federal government declined to bail the city out.

Joel stated that the song is titled “Miami 2017” because many New Yorkers retire to Miami and the narrator is telling his grandchildren in the year 2017 about what he experienced in the destruction of New York.

Here are the lyrics to the song.

Seen the lights go out Broadway
I saw the Empire State laid low
And life went on beyond the Palisades
They all bought Cadillacs
And left there long ago

They held a concert out in Brooklyn
To watch the island bridges blow
They turned our power down
And drove us underground
But we went right on with the show

I’ve seen the lights go out on Broadway
I saw the ruins at my feet
You know we almost didn’t notice it
We’d seen it all the time on Forty second street

They burned the churches down in Harlem
Like in that Spanish civil war
The flames were everywhere
But no one really cared
It always burned up there before

I’ve seen the lights go out on Broadway
I saw the mighty skyline fall
The boats were waiting at the battery
The union went on strike
They never sailed at all

They sent a carrier out from Norfolk
And picked the Yankees up for free
They said that Queens could stay
And blew the Bronx away
And sank Manhattan out at sea

You know those lights were bright on Broadway
That was so many years ago
Before we all lived here in Florida
Before the Mafia took over Mexico
There are not many who remember
They say a handful still survive
To tell the world about
The way the lights went out
And keep the memory alive

11 thoughts on “Song Lyric Sunday — Lights Go Out On Broadway

  1. herheadache April 8, 2018 / 1:34 pm

    I just finished watching a crazy multi part doc on the life of #45 and it begins in the 70s, in New York City, talking about the troubles the city had in that decade. I was not aware of all that, but Billy speaks about that in this song apparently. Erie song, but thanks for sharing. He is a talented man and musician, for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ghostmmnc April 8, 2018 / 4:39 pm

    I’ve heard a lot of Billy Joel’s songs, but not this one, before now. Wow, if he wrote that back in the 70s, it seems very prophetic, looking at how things have turned out since then. Very good choice. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango April 8, 2018 / 4:41 pm

      Thanks. Yes, the song does seem kind of prescient, doesn’t it? When I first remember hearing it, I thought he had written it after 9/11. But he actually wrote it decades before.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango April 8, 2018 / 9:52 pm

      I agree. Nearly every Billy Joel song is a classic and this one, in particular, does seem relevant to what’s going on these days.


  3. leigha66 April 9, 2018 / 3:26 pm

    This was the first time I had heard this song… good choice. Can’t say I have ever heard a Billy Joel song I didn’t like.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Helen Vahdati April 22, 2018 / 4:26 pm

    I just love Billy Joel I saw him in concert once, and he was amazing! I don’t think I’ve heard this one before, though, but it’s great! Thanks so much for sharing! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango April 22, 2018 / 9:09 pm

      I’ve seen him in concert twice and he was great in both.


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