Elton John – Philadelphia Freedom

I was riding with my uncle in the summer of 1975 going to Florida to see relatives. I remember this song was big that summer and I heard it quite a few times all the way down there.

Elton owned the early to mid-seventies. this song peaked at # in the Billboard 100, #1 in Canada, #2 in New Zealand, #12 in the UK in 1975.

Elton had an interesting B-side on this single. The B-side was a live duet of The Beatles hit “I Saw Her Standing There” that Elton recorded with his friend John Lennon. Elton had previously sung on Lennon’s “Whatever Gets You Through The Night” and also released a version of “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds,” which was written by Lennon.

Elton John: “In America, I’ve got ‘Philadelphia Freedom’ going up the charts again. I wish the bloody thing would piss off. I can see why people get sick and tired of me. In America, I get sick and tired of hearing myself on AM radio. It’s embarrassing.”

From Songfacts

Bernie Taupin wrote the lyrics to most of Elton John’s songs, but Elton would occasionally suggest titles. Elton requested a song with the title “Philadelphia Freedom” in honor of his friend, the tennis player Billie Jean King. At the time, there was a professional tennis league in America called World Team Tennis, and in 1974 King coached a team called the Philadelphia Freedoms, becoming one of the first women ever to coach men. Taupin had no obligation to write lyrics about King, and he didn’t – the song was inspired by the Philadelphia Soul sound of groups like The O’Jays and Melvin & The Blue Notes, and also the American bicentennial; in 1976 the US celebrated 200 years of independence.

Elton John and Billie Jean King became good friends after meeting at a party. Elton tried to attend as many of her matches as he could, and he promised King a song after she gave him a customized track suit. Elton and Billie Jean King would become icons of the gay and lesbian community, but at the time, they were both still in the closet, since athletes and entertainers faced a backlash if they revealed their homosexuality. Elton was often answering questions about why he hadn’t settled down with a girl, and King avoided the subject as best she could, but was forced to come out in 1981 when a former lover sued her for palimony. King was married to a man up until her outing, and Elton was married to a woman from 1984-1988.

On the single, it said this song was dedicated to “B.J.K.” (Billie Jean King) and “The Soulful Sounds Of Philadelphia.”

This song was a huge hit in America, following up another #1 single from Elton John, his cover of “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.” Elton dominated the charts at this time, but it didn’t always make him happy, as he felt he was being overexposed. 

Running 5:21, this was one of the longest dance hits of the ’70s. A few months earlier, a national radio programer declared that he would no longer play any Elton John song over 4 minutes long because they were screwing up his playlists (Program directors liked short songs because they could play more of them. Elton’s opuses like “Daniel” and “Funeral For A Friend” had a way of screwing up the “14 Hits In A Row” format). Elton knew this would be a hit, and was happy to screw the programmer by making it long, knowing he would have to play it anyway.

Elton said this was “one of the only times I tried to deliberately write a hit single.”

On May 17, 1975, Elton become one of the first white performers to appear on the TV show Soul Train, which was an honor for him. He performed this song and “Bennie And The Jets.”

Depending on where he was performing, Elton would sometimes alter the lyrics of the song, swapping “Philadelphia” for his present location. He would only do it if he could make it fit, so “Cincinnati Freedom” was a go, but Cleveland didn’t get customized.

Philadelphia Freedom

I used to be a rolling stone you know
If a cause was right
I’d leave to find the answer on the road
I used to be a heart beating for someone
But the times have changed
The less I say the more my work gets done

‘Cause I live and breathe this Philadelphia freedom
From the day that I was born I’ve waved the flag
Philadelphia freedom took me knee high to a man, yeah
Gave me a piece of mama, daddy never had

Oh Philadelphia freedom, shine on me, I love you
Shine the light, through the eyes of the ones left behind
Shine the light, shine the light
Shine the light, won’t you shine the light
Philadelphia freedom, I love-ve-ve you, yes I do

If you choose to you can live your life alone
Some people choose the city (some people the city)
Some others choose the good old family home (some others choose a good old)
I like living easy without family ties (living easy)
Till the whippoorwill of freedom zapped me
Right between the eyes

‘Cause I live and breathe this Philadelphia freedom
From the day that I was born I’ve waved the flag
Philadelphia freedom took me knee high to a man
Mm mm, gave me a piece of mama, daddy never had

Oh Philadelphia freedom, shine on me, I love you
Shine the light, through the eyes of the ones left behind
Shine the light, shine the light
Shine the light, won’t you shine the light
Philadelphia freedom, I love-ve-ve you, yes I do

Oh, Philadelphia freedom, shine on me, I love you
Shine the light, through the eyes of the ones left behind
Shine the light, shine the light
Shine the light, won’t you shine the light
Philadelphia freedom, I love-ve-ve,
You know I love-ve-ve , you know I love-ve-ve you
Yes I do, Philadelphia freedom
I love-ve-ve you
Yes I do, Philadelphia freedom
You know that I love-ve-ve you
Yes I do, Philadelphia freedom
Don’t you know that I love-ve-ve you
Yes I do, Philadelphia freedom
Don’t you know that I love-ve-ve you
Yes I do, Philadelphia freedom

Author: badfinger20

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

23 thoughts on “Elton John – Philadelphia Freedom”

  1. I was a huge Elton John fan as a kid. I still am. He’s one of the few artist that I have listened to consistently to all of my life. That said, this song had to grow on me. It always seemed a little out of step–not as catchy, not as funky, no hard edge rock licks–but it did grow on me, the joy of it.
    Oh yeah, I saw that Soul Train episode too, back it the day.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It is different than some of his rest. The reason it stuck to me is because it takes me to that moment. When I hear it I’m there again looking out the window of the car at 8 years old.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. To me, a strong contender for his best single and a strong candidate to be among the top 10 songs of the decade. Always loved the song, was frustrated when it came out I couldn’t find the 7″ initially, and had a K-tel album with it on… in that loving, K-tel edited to under 2 minute fashion! I never associated it with that Philly soul sound though, til I read that last year and listened to it in context of that.
    A timeless song, though like you said, it can take you back to a place and time. The timing was very good for it too, I think, being out just before the Bicentennial year when people were all about “freedom” and cities like Philly and Boston.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It does take me back to 8 years old looking out the window. I remember I had the black mca single after it was released…had to be my sister’s copy of it. No I never associated it with the Philly sound. I could have sworn it was 1976 because of the Philadelphia reference for some reason. It is in my top 10 or 5 Elton songs. Tiny Dancer is probably number 1 to me…it’s hard to pick one though.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. He did not have a star appearance…I think that is the reason he started wearing outrageous clothes.
      He looked like a guy that would do your accounting.

      Liked by 3 people

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