Philly-Inspired Songs on Spotify
By Sadie Smith
Music - whether it’s classical, jazz, rap, funk, rock, etc. - is its own form of language. Songs effectively communicate emotions like joy, frustration, regret, and hope. Moreover, they can capture the essence of a place. For instance, Philadelphia has been the subject of various popular songs throughout the decades. Each song portrays the city differently, but all of them capture the energy and emotion of the city. From Elton John to Boys II Men, artists from around the world found inspiration in Philly.
We have made a Spotify playlist inspired by the City of Brotherly Love, and each artist featured in this playlist interprets the city differently. Some show Philly’s warm, lively, and welcoming energy, while others talk about the issues within the city. Regardless of what each song conveys, all of them make Philadelphians proud of their city.
Listen with us to appreciate the wonders of this city:
Songs in the playlist:
Philadelphia Freedom by Elton John (1975)
Upbeat and soulful, Elton John’s Philadelphia Freedom has become an anthem to the people of Philadelphia. However, the backstory of the song has little to do with Philadelphia actually. Elton John dedicated this song to his dear friend, Billie Jean King, who coached a tennis team called the Philadelphia Freedom in 1974. She was the first woman to coach a men’s tennis coach. Though it may not be about Philadelphia, Elton John did take inspiration from the sounds of Philadelphia soul groups like The O’Jays and Melvin & The Blue Notes.
The Fresh Prince of Bel Air by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince (1992)
As the opening theme song for the 90s TV series, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, this song has become one of the most recognizable theme songs of all time. This song mentions The Fresh Prince’s childhood in West Philadelphia where “on the playground was where..[The Fresh Prince] spent most of..[his] days.”
Fall in Philadelphia by Hall & Oates (2006)
Both Daryl Hall and John Oates are Philadelphia natives, though they didn’t meet each other till they were both attending college at Temple University. Fall in Philadelphia discusses some grim issues in the city of Philadelphia, though it is masked by the smooth, jazzy tune. In the lyrics, Hall & Oates talk about issues like drugs, gangs, and burglary. Regardless, this song was a hit on Philadelphia radio stations.
Gonna Fly Now by Bill Conti (Rocky Theme song) (1977)
Rocky, an iconic film about a boxer’s physical and emotional journey, is deeply embedded in Philly’s culture. In the movie, Rocky runs up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art to the beat of Bill Conti’s song Gonna Fly Now. This scene has become so iconic to the city, that tourists flock to the museum to recreate this scene, even blasting this song as they do so. If you go to the museum steps, there is even a plaque marking where Rocky stood at the top of the stairs in victory.
Streets of Philadelphia by Bruce Springsteen (1994)
Bruce Springsteen had written this song for the 1993 film Philadelphia - a film about HIV/AIDS, an immune system disease. As such, Streets of Philadelphia has a more melancholy, muted tone than the rest of the songs on the album, because it deals with the hardships that come with the HIV/AIDS illness. Surprisingly, this song was more popular in Europe than in the United States. This song has been awarded various Academy Awards and Grammy Awards.
Motownphilly by Boyz II Men (1991)
Boyz II Men originated in Philadelphia and lived here for a portion of their career. This upbeat, lively song mixes the sounds of 1960s Motown and 1970s Philly soul. In the song, the singers sing and rap about where the group had come from and where they plan to go. The music video for this song was actually filmed in various locations in Philadelphia.
Editor: Judy Zhang