Today is the day we celebrate the College’s sesquicentenntial, 150 years of academics, college life – and campus entertainment.
Over the years, the College has hosted some of the best acts in popular music and other forms of entertainment, housing them in Kendall Hall and other stages across campus and inviting the College community to watch them bring down the house live. The College Union Board (CUB), which is still active today, ran many of these shows, bringing live musicians and other performers to the College.
Many of the best acts were during the 1970s and are all accounted for in old yearbooks. In 1972, the College brought Seals & Crofts to the Kendall Hall stage. They were one of the most popular soft rock acts of the time and, as the yearbook explained, “one of the finest musical acts of the year.”
Aside from other acts, including Dionne Warwick and Marcel Marceau, the College also hosted Sha Na Na, known for such songs as “Why Must I Be A Teenager in Love?” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” as well as for their stint as Johnny Casino and the Gamblers in the film version of “Grease.”
Described in the 1974 yearbook as “a living legend in the performing world” was Duke Ellington, the man who brought sophistication and style to jazz music. The College was lucky to be able to bring him to perform in 1974, as it was also the year he passed away from cancer.
Many rave about the fact that Bruce Springsteen, the rock ‘n’ roll legend, also visited the College in 1974. At the time he played here, he had only released two albums, “Greetings From Asbury Park NJ” and “The Wild, the Innocent & E Street Shuffle” and performed at the College as a back-up to Brian Auger, a jazz singer and keyboard player who had been performing with his band since 1962.
Music legend Billy Joel has performed multiple times at the College, first in 1974 and again in 1995. According to the 1974 yearbook, he performed “despite time mixups, absence of equipment and snow-covered roads” and “put on one of the best concerts at Trenton State College to date.”
According to Mary-Elaine Perry, vice president of Student Life, Billy Joel also performed in 1995. “Billy Joel did two shows in Kendall Hall, telling stories about his music and career and doing a little singing along the way,” she said, citing him as one her favorite performers since she began working at the College in 1987.
In 1975, the College brought to its stages Bonnie Raitt, who released her debut album in 1971 and has gone on to make 16 more discs and win nine Grammys. In 1976, students welcomed Blood, Sweat and Tears, known as the original and best jazz band.
Besides musical performers, comedians and activists have also graced the College’s stages. In 1974, nationally syndicated columnist Jack Anderson spoke to the students. At the time of his appearance, the nation was reeling from the end of the Vietnam War and he made a comment about that war, which ironically applies to the difficulties the nation now faces as more and more troops are sent to fight in Iraq.
“Young people should refuse to fight in senseless wars and instead fight for an end to them,” he told students. “How much greater to live for your country, rather than die for it.”
In addition, the College also brought poets such as Nikki Giovanni, who infused her work with familial affection and loneliness, in 1975.
More recently, according to Perry, the College has been host to such acts as Barry Williams, TV’s Greg Brady, Jerry Seinfeld, Mark Cooper of “Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper” and Adam West, the original Batman.
In 2003, the College also hosted Bill Cosby, who used his interesting brand of comedy to entertain the students. “Even in his 60s, he continues to be current, very funny and make people of all ages laugh heartily,” Perry said.
All in all, as we embrace the College’s sesquicentennial, we can look back on the years of entertainment and celebrate those who have graced our stages. Hopefully, in the future, we will be able to add to this list of esteemed performers and memories.