Album: Philadelphia Soundtrack (1993)
Charted: 62


  • Young wrote this for the Jonathan Demme movie Philadelphia, starring Tom Hanks as a lawyer dying of AIDS. Demme first cut the title sequence of Philadelphia to "Southern Man" and asked Young to write a song like it for the movie. Young gave him this, which he used at the end of the film. Still needing a song for the open, he called Bruce Springsteen, who wrote "Streets Of Philadelphia." Demme wanted musicians not typically associated with AIDS causes for his movie because he wanted a mainstream audience to take interest in the film.

    Demme spoke further about getting Neil Young to compose a song for the film in a Rolling Stone interview: "I thought, what we need is the most up-to-the-minute, guitar-dominated American-rock anthem about injustice to start the movie off. Who can do that? Neil Young can do that. So we edited a title sequence to 'Southern Man' to help him see how his music could power the images we were working with. He said, 'I'll try.' Six weeks later, 'Hi, it's Neil, I'm sending a tape.' So in comes this song. We were crying the first time we heard it. I went: "Oh, my God, Neil Young trusts this movie more than I do."

    The melancholic nature of Young's contribution led to Demme switching it to the ending, rather than opening, song.
  • Neil Young wrote this song during the time of what was supposed to be a reunion with his 1970s band, Crazy Horse. When Neil wrote this song, the original version of the melody was more of a peaceful ode to the city. Jonathan Demme thought that this melody was "too pretty," as the ending of the film was dark and sad. So Demme asked Young to fix the melody up a bit, changing a note here and a chord there. Jonathan had to describe to Neil how the film ended, then asked him to base the changes to his melody on the film's ending. Neil was asked to portray himself as if he were Andrew, playing the melody and singing the lyrics with the dark tone of a lost boy in his voice. The original version of Neil Young's melody is among his many rarities. This version, however, is no longer forgotten, as German-born clarinetist Richard Stoltzman released it on his 1995 album, Visions. The version heard in the film and on the soundtrack is the one that Young sang at the Academy Awards in 1994, accompanying himself on a grand piano.
  • Young gave most of the profits from this song to AIDS related causes.
  • This was nominated for an Oscar in 1994 for Best Original Song. It lost to Bruce Springsteen's "Streets Of Philadelphia," from the same movie.

Comments: 10

  • David from Huntington Beach, CaI love how the director contacted Neil and said "hey can you write me a song like Southern Man for my movie?" (or so) and then gave him this. Neil writes what he feels and this is what he felt. One of the most beatifully sad songs of all time...
  • Susan from Tampa, Flbeautiful song!!! and yes it was much more meaningful to use it at the end of the movie just as it was, i wish it won the Oscar
  • SinÃ?ad from Galway, IrelandThis is such a beautiful of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard. Should have won the Oscar.
  • Audrey from Alpena, MiMy brother had just died of aids when the Movie "Philadelphia" was released. My sister and I went to see the movie, glad our mother did not, for the pain of losing child was too great, something she never got over. When this song played our tears were inconsolable. And the song's lyrics: When the secrets came unfurled. Tell me I'm not to blame. I won't be ashamed of love. I have not read anything anywhere that better captures the sentiment and struggle the child - the initition story . . . My brother was born homosexual, of that I am sure. And why would he live alone because he is gay? Why should he? Why should he be ashamed to share his life with another ? ? ? He was well read, imaginative, and simply the most special person I ever knew - irresplaceable. Your song better captures - in a poetic way - the sentiment and stuggle a gay person lives - since childhood. The writing is superior to Bruce Springstien's song.
  • Annabelle from Eugene, OrThis sounds like it would be the perfect little lullaby to sing to your little son or daughter. Neil Young seems to show his soft side on this song, and I believe it would fit so nicely on an album of soft lullaby music. My dad could sing this to me, since he sings just like Neil Young!
  • Eddie from Philadelphia, PaOk, this is my home town. The City of Passion. It is a great tune and it does convey some of the feeling of Philly but not all. Not that any one song could completely convey any one city ever, but it does a nice job of hitting you in the gut, which is where us Philadelphians wear our hearts. The passion we live with for our sports teams alone sync with the haunting overture of this song. Don't turn your back on me - that can be translated so many ways strictly talking about the people of Philly and the sports teams. I know this song had a different cause in mind, but it means so much more to me than what that movie portrayed.
  • Rob from Vancouver, CanadaThe better song....soulful. Not that Bruce's isn't
  • Susan from New Bern, NcI agree it's the better song, but I think that the song was in the perfect place at the end of the movie and much more meaningful.
  • Tom from Houston, TxA beautiful song. Neil sang it at the Academy Awards that year solo on piano. It's a bit obscure as it's not on any of his albums but does appear on the movie soundtrack. Maybe the best thing he's done since the 70's.
  • Janetlee from Panama City, FlThis is a pretty song. It should've beat Springsteen's song !
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