Philadelphia Freedom

Album: Elton John's Greatest Hits Volume II (1975)
Charted: 12 1


  • 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. He told Melody Maker in June 1975: "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."
  • 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 "Philadelphia Freedom" 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."
  • Elton often put interesting B-sides on his singles, which made them more valuable. On this, 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.
  • 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."
  • Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy was the first album to enter the US charts at #1. This was due to advance orders, as the album was widely anticipated.
  • 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 "Cincinatti Freedom" was a go, but Cleveland didn't get customized.

Comments: 26

  • Bill from O'ahu, HawaiiI remember it this way: Around the summer of 1974 George Michael, of WFIL 56AM (Philadelphia AM560), was interviewing Elton John on his radio show. During the interview Elton was praising "The City of Brotherly Love", and the many freedoms that Americans have. George suggested, "It sounds like a song in the making" and that maybe Elton write a song commemorating the event. The song came out shortly after that.

    I do not doubt that he gave the song, or dedicated it, to Billie Jean King as they were very close and had a lot in common. But I do not believe the song was written exclusively for her. George Michael went on to host "George Michael's Sports Machine" and later he became a sports anchor on a local D.C. TV station. He was a great interviewer, music and sports personality. May he rest in peace.
  • Seventhmist from 7th Heaven"Dance hit?" I was 14 when this came out and I never thought of it as a song to dance to. But if someone did, ok by me.
  • Dave from Philadelphia, PaAll I know is that the local high school choir came to our elementary school and sang it and was fixated on the third girl front row on the end and it took me knee high to a man in 4 minutes. Great song that lifted up the City of Brotherly Love.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyExactly forty five years ago today in 1975 {January 12th} "Mandy" by Barry Manilow peaked at #1 {for 1 week} on Billboard's Top 100 chart...
    "Mandy" was the first of twelve consecutive records that reached #1 and stayed in the top spot for only one week...
    Elton John's covered version of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" peaked at #1 for two weeks on December 29th, 1974, then the following records peaked at #1 for only one week:
    "Mandy" by Barry Manilow
    "Please Mr. Postman" by The Carpenters
    "Laughter in the Rain" by Neil Sedaka
    "Fire" by Ohio Players
    "You're No Good" by Linda Ronstadt
    "Pick Up the Pieces" by Average White Band
    "Best of My Love" by The Eagles
    "Have You Never Been Mellow" by Olivia Newton-John
    "Black Water" by The Doobie Brothers
    "My Eyes Adored You" by Frankie Valli
    "Lady Marmalade" by Labelle
    "Lovin' You" by Minnie Riperton
    And then it was Elton John who broke the string when his "Philadelphia Freedom" peaked at #1 for two weeks on April 6th, 1975...
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn this day in 1975 {May 17th} Elton John performed "Philadelphia Freedom" on the nationally syndicated television program, 'Soul Train'...
    At the time the song was at position #11 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart, five weeks earlier it had peaked at #1* {for 2 weeks} and it spent twenty one weeks on the Top 100...
    And one month later on June 15th, 1975 it reached #32 {for 1 week} on Billboard's Hot Black Singles chart...
    Between 1970 and 2000 he had sixty-three records on the Top 100 chart, twenty-seven made the Top 10 with eight reaching #1...
    He just missed having four more #1 records when his "Daniel" {1973}, "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" {1973}, "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me" {1974}, and "I Don't Wanna Go On With You Like That" {1988} all peaked at #2...
    Elton John, born Reginald Kenneth Dwight, celebrated his 72nd two months ago on March 25th {2019}...
    * And from the 'For What It's Worth' department; on January 5th, 1975 Elton John's "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" was in it's second of two weeks at #1, then for the next twelve weeks there were twelve different records occupying the #1 spot, and it's was Elton John's "Philadelphia Freedom" that broke the streak when it reached #1 and remained in the top spot for two weeks...
  • Groovus Maximus from Boston, MaHey, Tg from AZ, sorry to burst your bubble, but even though you're 100% correct on "knee-high," you're clearly confused about Taupin's lyric "gave me peace of mind my daddy never had." What a stretch to think it could possibly have been such a nonsensical string of words! It makes absolutely no sense, and shows that you're no better than the 'folks' you chastise and ridicule. P.S.: "in the south were I'm originally from" should have been "where," which I realize may have been a simple typo, but shows your carelessness and lack of attention to detail. Also, "life time" is actually one word, not two separate ones... Have a nice day!
  • Fire Marshal Bill from ChicagoRight on, Dexter! It is actually, "Gave me peace of mind my daddy never had"
  • Tg from AzHey, folks please don't start or spread rumors based on your great hearing abilities. A Lot of Elton John's vocals can be hard to discern. That doesn't make your 2 cent opinion correct. Call a spade a spade and a shovel a shovel.
    #1) It's clearly "...gave me a piece of mama, daddy never had;"which refers to the "you've come a long way baby," attitude of some women in the 70's, (if you weren't alive during that period, then how would you know?)... and
    #2) "...took me knee-high to a man" refers to growing from a boy to a man. I almost feel flattered, since in the south were I'm originally from, we say "knee-high" when referring to kids, all of the time.
    I'm not gay or even pro gay at all... but I do respect great songwriters and admire Elton John and Bernie Taupin for the bulk of their work in my life time. ....and i despise pretension when it comes to so-called faux "musical intellectuals."
    Plato said, "A wise man speaks because he has something to say, and a fool, because he has to say something."
    Any Diehard fan of the words and music of Elton John and Bernie Taupin should not have missed the Historical Knowledge of Taupin. The Songs are full of History and intense understand of Life. Philadelphia Freedom is no exception! In the Greek there are 3 words for Love. 1 is Eros Love - needy love like a child who would die without it's mother who meets it's needs. 3. Agape Love - the unconditional love we here so much about without the necessary training as to how to get from Eros to Agape.

    This leaves #2 Philo Love - brotherly love - the training of young sons.
    Please go read the words for yourself again! Have you ever sat outside and Heard the faint calling of a Whippoorwill? You can almost miss it! The faint calling of the Spirit has given me peace of mind that my daddy never had. It has always been there guiding me even when I was Knee High to being a man. In other words just a kid.

    The Holy Scripture follows the same pattern. If you want to have Agape Love you must apply the training of the Old Testament it is the prescription for the training of Sons of God! Philadelphia Freedom was the intent of the founders of America and I wish Jefferson & Adams were here to listen to the live version of this song and discuss it with me.

    This runs deeper than Flag Waving Patriotism, it resides at the root of the Human Heart and the hope of being all we can become!

  • Dexter from Chicago, IlWhoever added the lyrics added the "misheard" lyrics - the line is NOT "Yeah gave me a piece of mama, daddy never had" it is "Yeah, gave me a peace of mind my Daddy never had - look it up -
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn January 4th, 1975 Elton's "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" became #1 for two weeks. Then for the next 12 weeks there was 12 different songs by 12 different artists who claimed the #1 spot. On April 12th the string was broken and it was Elton who did it, his "Philadelphia Freedom" became #1 for two weeks!!!
  • Mike from Hastings, Ne"knee-high to a man" is NOT any kind of veiled reference to anything sexual. It merely means that the proclaimed "Philadelphia Freedom" of the song was such a strong inner spirit that it sustained the singer from his years being a child (knee-high) to his adult life.
  • Rudolf from Vancouver, CanadaI think the date of the CD that has this song on it should be noted in the title, along with a note that it is not on the original album, since it is not on either my Captain Fantastic LP or CD.
  • Ashley from Somerset, KyThe title is connected with a tennis team that Billie Jean King was on before going pro in tennis.
  • Darrell from Eugene, United StatesAn Englishman singing and writing a song about the Bicentennial? My god, the British lost the Revolutionary War!
  • Ken from Louisville, KyThis was originally a stand-alone single and was credited to the "Elton John Band". It is now available as a "bonus" track on Captain Fantastic, and on several greatest hits CD's.
  • Ken from Louisville, KyDusty Springfield sang backup vocals on this song. Elton was a HUGE fan of hers, and even sang at her funeral.
  • Rafael from Pasadena, CaAnother song that takes me back to my high school days. I had just graduated and it brings back a ton of memories.
  • Les from Joplin, Mo"Philadelphia freedom took me knee high to a man" is a thinly-veiled reference to giving a blow job.
  • Amandass from Buckley, WaI caught my dad dancing to this song once when I was a kid hahaha
  • Scott from Columbus, OhPersonally I never, ONCE doubted this song to be a testimonial to his own's just to damn perfectly written in that light to dismiss.
    What an uplifting song of hope and freedom... regardless of your sexual orientation.
    Elton is a legendary performer and has all the respect this heterosexual can possibly have for any figure of entertainment.
  • Wes from Springfield, Va"On the single, it said this was dedicated to "B.J.K." (Billie Jean King) and "The Soulful Sounds Of Philadelphia." Gee, and I figured it had something to do with the Declaration of Independence, the 1976 Bicentennial and all that. Just me projecting my own interpretation on the song, I guess.
  • Rob from Santa Monica, CaDue to this song's uncharacteristic production and the low timbre in John's voice, I heard it dozens of times before I learned it was Elton John.
  • Celeste from Drexel Hill, PaAs I have heard it told, this was the first time Elton asked Bernie to write a set of lyrics for a specific reason.
  • Alex from New Orleans, LaCouldn't this song also be about Elton admitting he is gay because Philidelphia is 'the City of BBrotherly Love"?
  • Charles from Charlotte, NcCorrection: Philadelphia Freedom was only available as a single until it made a Greatest Hits Vol. 2 LP in 1978. There is one track on CFATBDC (Tell Me When The Whistle Blows) that has string arrangements very similar to those on Philadelphia Freedom.
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