New Jersey: Bruce Springsteen
The Garden State has been fertile enough to birth a (gym, tan) laundry list of American treasures: Frank Sinatra, Shaquille O'Neal, Jack Nicholson, Whitney Houston, Buzz Aldrin, the light bulb, air conditioning, and Meryl Streep. (Nope, I didn't forget about Job Bovi Jovi.) But there's only one person universally regarded as "The Boss," apologies to Tony Soprano. Bruce Springsteen has been Jersey's interstate ambassador since he greeted the nation from Asbury Park in the winter of '73. He crafted a leather jacket-wearing, tramps-like-us New Jersey bravado that took us out of the smothering shadow of Manhattan's skyline and into popular culture. He's had more comebacks than a 4am pork roll in a queasy digestion track. Bruce single-handedly guided our state through the dark abyss of the Jersey Shore years with graceful aplomb. And -- on a truly serious note -- he was most visible, and most endearing when he was alongside us in the aftermath of 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy, helping us heal with his songs and his well-documented compassion for his fans. He loves Jersey. And his love is as contagious as a Rutgers frat house. Not just for outsiders, but for locals, too. He made every New Jersey resident proud to call this often trashy, always mercurial place home. If he taught us nothing else, it's that New Jersey might not be a beauty, but hey, it's alright.