I am—like many of other remote Penn students—dying to be in Philly right now. As I usually channel my disappointments and hopes into oddly named Spotify playlists and am already spending a ridiculous amount of time on my computer, I decided to bring Philly to me. Quasi–mixtapes inspired by Philly have been made before, even by Street back when the Eagles won in 2018, but I’d like to highlight these acclaimed artists’ ties to Philly and what led them to croon about our city. Give my playlist a little brotherly love and I hope to be rocking out together next semester!
1. "Philadelphia Freedom" by Elton John
Elton John’s writing partner, Bernie Taupin, has described the lyrics of "Philadelphia Freedom" as nonsense, but the song remained on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for five months after being released in 1975. While "Philadelphia Freedom" was actually written for Elton John’s long time friend, Billie Jean King, it quickly became a anthem for the city. B.J.K., whose impressive tennis career includes 39 Grand Slams and the defeat of Bobby Biggs in the 1973 “Battle of the Sexes,” played for and now owns the World TeamTennis team, the Philadelphia Freedoms. When Elton proposed the song, B.J.K. was uncomfortable with the idea but thought “it will be a great gift to the people of Philadelphia.” On the song’s label, Elton also recognizes the beauty of Philadelphia, as the dedication reads “with Love to B.J.K. and the music of Philadelphia.”
2. "Summertime" by DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince
The Fresh Prince, a.k.a Will Smith, and DJ Jazzy Jeff, a.k.a. Jeff Townes, were born and raised in West Philly. The duo won the Grammy for Best Rap Performance for "Summertime" in 1991. Many important Philly landmarks appear in the music video for "Summertime," including Belmont Plateau, Belmont Mansion, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, the Water Works Gazebo, Swann Memorial Fountain, and more. DJ Jazzy Jeff has said, "The whole video was shot in Philly. And what we told the director is that we wanted to have a cookout and invite all our family and friends.”
3. "Dreams and Nightmares Intro" by Meek Mill
Billboard Magazine has crowned Meek Mill’s opening intro track to his debut album in 2012 as “Philly’s Ultimate Underdog Anthem.” The song was inspired by Mill’s youth in North Philadelphia and highlights “chip–on–your–shoulder ambition that characterize the city." "Dreams and Nightmares Intro" became the Philadelphia Eagles' anthem. Legend is that the song is responsible for the Eagles' first Super Bowl win in 2018. Defensive end Derek Barnett, says the song “gives us good energy. Just a little extra juice,” and his defensive end teammate, Brandon Graham, says, “if you’re going to go with a Philly song, that’s the one you’re going with.
4 & 5. "Philadelphia" by Neil Young; "Streets of Philadelphia" by Bruce Springsteen
Young’s classic haunting ballad and Springsteen’s melancholy song were written for the movie Philadelphia, starring Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington. The movie is about a lawyer suffering with AIDS and was among the first to acknowledge the health crisis through a mainstream platform like blockbuster film. The legal drama features the Philadelphia's City Hall and the Famous 4th Street Deli.
6 & 7. "Fall in Philadelphia"; "Philly Forget Me Not" by Hall & Oates
An ode to Philly's autumn, "Fall in Philadelphia" was released in 1972 as a part of Hall & Oates's debut album, Whole Oats. The band formed after John Oats and Pennsylvania native Daryl Hohl met when attending Philadelphia’s Temple University. While Hall & Oates later moved to New York City and found enormous fame with mega hits like "You Make My Dreams Come True," "Rich Girl," and "She’s Gone," the band’s formation and entry into the music scene are thanks to Philly. The band's love for the city continued throughout the decades. Despite not releasing new music since the early 2000s, Hall and Oats teamed up with Train to create "Philly Forget Me Not" in 2018. Hall explains the song “pretty much describes my feeling about Philly, my music home.”
8. "Gonna Fly Now" by Bill Conti
The Rocky theme song, "Gonna Fly Now," may only have 29 words, but it hit #1 on the pop chart in 1977 and remains an iconic song for the city. Rocky's classic training scene features Sylvester Stallone in a grey sweatsuit jogging the streets of South Philadelphia and ends with him running up the steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In 2006, the city honored the movie by installing a statue of Stallone in the pose of victory in front of the museum. The Visit Philadelphia website says that even today, many tourists come to the museum to "jog to the top, raise their fists in the air and, on occasion, belt out 'Gonna Fly Now.'"