Cape Cod, Massachusetts has inspired dozens of books, movies, poems – and songs. Here are 5 tunes that made the charts and helped bring worldwide recognition to New England’s quaintest little peninsula and islands!
1. Patti Page – Old Cape Cod
“Cape Codders” consider this 1957 tune the “unofficial Cape Cod Anthem.” Some even credit it with “putting the Cape on the map” and helping to establish Cape Cod as a major tourist destination. The lyrics are actually a poem written by Boston-area housewife Claire Rothrock, who vacationed on Cape Cod with her family. According to Patti Page, Rothrock approached her at a Boston nightclub where she was performing and presented the poem. Page fell in love with it, and the rest is history!
Each verse of the song ends with the line “You’re sure to fall in love with old Cape Cod.”
2. Rupert Holmes – Escape (The Piña Colada Song)
Escape was written and recorded by British-born American singer Rupert Holmes for his album Partners in Crime. As the lead single for the album, the catchy ditty became the last number one hit in the US for the year 1970. The line, “If you like making love at midnight in the dunes on the Cape…” has been confirmed to refer to Cape Cod.
Although considered his most well-known hit, Holmes has mixed feelings about the track. In an interview with Songfacts, he said:
“I have a feeling that if I saved an entire orphanage from a fire and carried the last child out on my shoulders, as I stood there charred and smoking, they’d say, ‘Aren’t you the guy who wrote the piña colada song?’ It’s tough when you have this one thing that pulls focus from all these other things that you’ve done, yet every songwriter lives to have a song that most everybody knows.”
3. Jimmy Buffett – Volcano
Released on the 1979 album by the same name, Volcano was written by Jimmy Buffett, Keith Sykes, and Harry Dailey. It proved to be only a mild hit for Buffett, reaching #66 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #43 on the Easy Listening chart.
The song mentions a number of locations in the final bridge before the chorus, including Buzzard’s Bay, Cape Cod.
4. Billy Joel – The Downeaster Alexa
Billy Joel wrote, produced, and performed this song about the plight of the Notheastern commercial fishermen for his eleventh studio album Storm Front. The album itself went to number one, but The Downeaster Alexa only reached #57 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The lyrics mention several fishing spots from Long Island up to Massachusetts, including Block Island Sound, Montauk, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, and Gardiners Bay.
5. Vampire Weekend – Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa
Released on August 18, 2008, this indie rock hit was rated the 67th best song of 2007 by Rolling Stone magazine. Despite the title, Vampire Weekend vocalist Ezra Koenig says Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa has little to do with Massachusetts. He was travelling through London on the way to India and said that the trip got him “thinking a lot about colonialism and the aesthetic connections between preppy culture and the native cultures of places like Africa and India.” This inspired Koenig to write a short story exploring those connections. “Kwassa kwassa” refers to a dance rhythm from Congo (DRC).