San Jose’s New Song

Frank Sinatra’s ode to The Big Apple is just one of many great songs about New York. Los Angeles has “L.A. Woman” and its very own Randy Newman sendup, “I Love L.A.” And San Francisco has two flavors of whimsy—Tony Bennett’s “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” and Scott McKenzie’s starry-eyed flower-power anthem, “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair).”

San Jose has its own pop-paean, too. The Burt Bacharach- and Hal David-penned Dionne Warwick hit “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” charted all over the world when it was released in 1968. Sure, it was corny; Burt Bacharach songs usually are. But it had, and continues to exude, a certain genuine charm.

On Wednesday, the city’s travel promotion and performing arts venue management organization, Team San Jose, unveiled the newest contribution to municipal branding jingles at its annual meeting. Following videos featuring costumed San Jose City Council members—most of them, along with Mayor Sam Liccardo, in attendance—TSJ CEO Karolyn Kirchgesler detailed efforts to promote the city’s tourism profile to domestic and international markets, particularly China.

With San Jose’s newfound cachet as a preferred venue for major conferences produced by Apple, Facebook and Google, Kirchgesler is riding high in growing and managing the convention franchise. Bar charts and hockey stick graphs attest to Team’s accomplishments on the financial end.

When it comes to being cultural influencers, well, that’s an entirely different business. Kirchgesler introduced a “very special song” recorded in, well, Nashville, an effort spearheaded by TSJ’s creative marketing priestess, Laura Chmielewski, to provide a musical backdrop to San Jose’s promotional efforts.

Described by Chmielewski as a “love letter to San Jose,” the song “San Jose” is a pop-country tune, replete with twangy fiddle and fond memories of the singer’s first guitar. The song was penned by a teen-aged girl from Down Under—who, the story goes, happens to have a soft spot for the Capital of Silicon Valley.

“Meet Grace Kelly,” the press release chirps, “a 16-year-old singer-songwriter from Auckland, New Zealand. She’s been singing since she was little and in the last 5 years, she found her love for songwriting. She first came to San Jose when she was 8 years old and it quickly became her home away from home. ‘I fell in love with San Jose and all of the memories that were attached to it. My dad even bought my first electric guitar right here in San Jose.’ Since then, her dad has moved back to New Zealand two years ago, but she still holds her memories of San Jose near and dear to her heart.”

Kelly strums to TSJ’s promotional video, unveiled as a centerpiece at the annual meeting, showing young people traversing downtown streets in city logo T-shirts on Lime scooters, Kelly singing to a sunset-bathed Mount Hamilton valley view backdrop, viewing instruments in Japantown’s ukelele shop, then a cut to aqua fresca vendors ladling colored beverages at the flea market.

Team’s promotion hits some legitimate touch-points of the city’s culture in a quest for highlighting what former board chair Michael Mulcahy in his remarks referred to as “authentic experiences.” Another promo video showed millennials tipping tasting glasses at Camino brewery and sawing into farm-to-table steaks at the Grandview restaurant.

Is the teenage Kiwi—who hasn’t even spent a decade in San Jose—the right musical icon to capture the city in a remotely authentic way? And will this municipal branding exercise gain traction in shaping the city’s culture? We’ve been trying to escape that Dionne Warwick song for half a friggin’ century.

And what about the South Bay’s own musical heritage? The Grateful Dead, The Doobie Brothers, Smash Mouth and Peanut Butter Wolf? These are just a few of the more recognizable artists that have emerged from our region and there are plenty more to throw in the heap. Quirky psychobilly singers, like The Legendary Stardust Cowboy; psychedelic pioneers, such as The Chocolate Watchband; and more skate punks than you can shake a deck at, including The Faction.

Each of these artists have far more invested in San Jose than Kelly. They are truly and authentically South Bay bands with South Bay stories. Though some might decline the offer to soundtrack a promotional video produced by the tourism board, they should at least be offered the opportunity.

In the meantime, city boosters will be watching the streaming counters on video services and Pandora, where the tune will be served up.

Grace Kelly joined TSJ at the Montgomery Theater to unveil her musical ode to San Jose. (Photo by Dan Pulcrano)

17 Comments

  1. San Jose New Song: By FEXXNIST, San Jose local feminist… If you do not know the way to San Jose, folllow the trail of homeless people on Monterey way. Watch up for the big cracks on the rode all the way from Tully to just before Morgan Hill. If there is something stinky when visiting San Jose downtown, do not confuse that for the Garlic Capitol of the “world.” It is just LICCARDO passing his gasses on the top of the city hall. He is planning on his new way to please google and dreaming of being a California senator. If you do not know your way to San Jose, Drive from Gilroy, watch up, for the GPD perverts and go north on Monterey. Close to Market Street and on North First Street you will find LICCARDO’s corrupted gang friends, Cyndy, Cortese and the rest. If you do not know the way to San Jose, ask where the biggest criminal in the SANTA CLARA COUNTY lives, his name JEFF ROSEN. If you do not know the way to San Jose, ask where children are taken away from parents and families are victims of the most nerve breaking judiciary scam, the family court at 201 North First Street. The chief of judiciary scam is Julia A EMEDE. If you do not know your way to San Jose, California. Think again; there is a rode less traveled, but that does not happens In San Jose. If you do not Know your way to San Jose, ask for directions to GOOGLELAND instead. Just google it! That is the new way if you do not know your way to San Jose…take 101, or Julian, drive north from San Martin, then right on SANTA CLARA Street, Google’s puppet lives there…Sammy…

    • Completely agree, in fact your lyrics would make a GREAT song about SJ, I am in fact a singer/songwriter, we should collaborate! The talented violinist in the video is the only true perception displayed in this video, he is born and raised and is playing just to keep from sleeping in the streets of San Jose!

      • Thanks Olivia: Write your song and post it here at SJI. Please form your club of local musicians and song writers. I believe in promoting local talent at all levels. I have connections to media and radio stations. In addition to those with the ability to spread information to social media that do not work for google. I love poetry. I would like to hear a song using personification about the monster threating San Jose’s and greater Bay Area residents’ quality and enjoyment of life Google).

  2. People, please submit your best San Jose song by July first! Winner will have breakfasts with Sam LICCARDO at Lee’s by his office!

  3. I did not know our tax dollars were being used for this stupid team promotion. Liccardo, if you want the city of San Jose to be promoted, tax google and other corporations. They are not individuals; they are corporations. Fix the Streets in San Jose, house the homeless, and hire individuals to contribute with valuable work not a team promotion most likely formed by lazy A$$ES! Google, Apple, and other idiots, invest in fixing the Streets of San Jose. That will be an effective way to promote the city where you are having your conferences. Once again, San Jose residents paying for google’s benefit!

  4. Do you remember Jackie Gage, Visit San Jose????? She “knows the way” because she is FROM SAN JOSE and she wrote a lovesong about us, called” A Secret Place”. The beautiful video, which came out recently, THANKS YOU, Visit San Jose, because you helped her with it. It was crowdfunded and didn’t require someone coming from halfway across the world to write it. Oh that’s right!! San Jose exports their labor- the tee shirt is from some unknown person from Cleveland (when we have incredible muralists and artists) and now this video from a Kiwi. If you’re so proud of your city, take a look around and ask your residents first to be involved. WE are San Jose. We’re all going to be forced to leave from the high rent anyway, guess you only care about knowing the way here, not staying.

  5. Vicki, I am sure this girl has connections to Googlle. For google, world talent comes from the other side of the world! We have to pay for their work and housing while they are in San Jose. This happens by the tax breaks Liccardo gives them while we get no breaks! The talented muralists you are talking about are working at google’s kitchen.

  6. There is a song playing in other states for the drug addicts and bums entitled” This is the way to San Jose “, and comes with a bus ticket.

  7. This song is awful and cringe-worthy. Whatever talent this girl has was drowned out by her production team. The song writing is terrible! The visuals aren’t bad.

  8. The “San Jose song lyrics and production shots” were less than abysmal.

    Maybe TSJ should have a production shot of a vagrant-shooting up heroin in a garbage festooned
    St. James Park with Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground singing “Heroin” in the background…then a montage of production shots of… vagrants dying in front of the Non-profits who are flush with cash…trash all over the Downtown…an illegal alien stabbing someone to death while the City Council dresses-up in drag and sings an off-tune song called, “Sanctuary City”..then back to Lou Reed and the Velvet underground…”When I put a spike into my vein”…somewhere in here…is, unfortunately, the real “San Jose.”

    When is the city going to learn to cut-off all funding to Team San Jose?

    David S. Wall

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