19 Songs About Philadelphia for Your Playlist

Chances are you’ve got a couple of songs about Philadelphia on your music playlist right now. Philadelphia is a city with a deep soul, rich culture, and powerful history. With such features, it’s not surprising that the city has inspired a lot of interesting songs.

While some songs just name drop the city, some pay proper homage, and others are fully dedicated to the City of Brotherly Love. And with good reason, the city has been a powerful force in the music industry. From American Bandstand to the soulful R&B genre, Philly has led the way.

Here are some of our favorite songs that pay tribute to our hometown.

“Philadelphia Freedom” by Elton John

American flag flying from an historic brick house.
The flag of freedom at the Betsy Ross’ house

“…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 peace of mind my daddy never had…”

Elton John and his collaborator, Bernie Taupin made this song about popular tennis star Billie Jean King and her tennis team, Philadelphia Freedoms (which still exists). Released in 1975, “Philadelphia Freedom” also pays homage to Philly and celebrates its importance in history. It is one of Elton John’s many Billboard number 1 hits.

The songs plays frequently at events and as part of holidays around the city. Whether it’s at Phillies’ games or during fireworks on July 4th, it’s a regular refrain. There is even a Christmas light show at the Philadelphia Zoo synced to the music.

“The Sound of Philadelphia (TSOP)” by MSFB

“Let’s get it on
It’s time to get down
Let’s get it on
It’s time to get down
Let’s get it on
It’s time to get down
Let’s get it on.”

When you turn on this song, \prepare to shake your head and move your body. Released in 1974, TSOP was a disco song by a group that went by the name Mother Sister Father Brother (MSFB). This disco hit also featured The Three Degrees, a female vocal group formed in Philadelphia in 1963.

“The Sound of Philadelphia” was originally made for the TV music show Soul Train and soon found itself on the Billboard Hot 100.

“Bandstand Boogie (Theme from American Bandstand)” by Barry Manilow

Giant satellite dish on top of a brick building with a historical marker out front.
The original American Bandstand studio in West Philly

 “We’re goin’ swingin’ (swing)
We’re gonna swing in the crowd
And we’ll be clingin’ (cling)
And floatin’ high as a cloud
The phones are ringin’ (ring)
My mom and dad are so proud
I’m on Bandstand (Bandstand)”

Barry Manilow’s popular hit “Bandstand Boogie” was a theme song for American Bandstand, a popular music television show. The TV show aired between 1952 and 1989 and had strong Philadelphia roots, being filmed here for most of its run.

Manilow is also popularly known for his records like `”Could It Be Magic”, “Mandy,” “and Can’t Smile Without You”.

“Dancing in the Streets” by Martha & The Vandellas

This is one of the songs that name-dropped Philly and as such qualifies to be called a Philadelphia song. Released in 1964, in “Dancing in the Streets,” Martha & The Vandellas shouted out Philadelphia while they sang about having a good time wherever you find yourself.

The original version of the song was composed by William Stevenson, Ivy Jo Hunter, and Marvin Gaye. However, the song only became popular with the Martha & The Vandellas version, which peaked at number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and number 4 on the UK’s Singles Chart.

Motown Philly by Boyz II Men

Exterior of Geno's steaks
Geno’s featured prominently in the Motownphilly video

“Never skipped a beat, na
While cooling on South street
Jet black Benz, plenty of friends
And all the Philly steaks you could eat”

With such catchy lyrics, we are not surprised this hit song soared to such success and became forever embedded in the brains of kids of the early ’90s. Boyz II Men were an R&B group that originated from Philadelphia and had many hit songs to their name including “So Hard to Say Goodbye” and “End of the Road.”

But Motownphilly started it all. The song, which was the group’s debut single, was released in 1991 and it is one of their top hits. The ultimate local shoutout, its video features many landmarks, including the Ben Franklin Bridge, Geno’s cheesesteaks, and the Delaware Riverfront. If you want to see what the city was like in the ’90s, you know where to look.

Punk Rock Girl by Dead Milkmen

“Give me a chance
(Punk rock girl), let’s go slam dance
We’ll dress like Minnie Pearl
Just you and me, punk rock girl
… We went to the Philly Pizza Company and ordered some hot tea
The waitress said “well no, we only have it iced””

Dead Milkmen was a group formed in the city in 1983. In 1988, they released “Punk Rock Girl,” which was about a man and a punk rock girl who explored Philadelphia together.

Dead Milkmen referenced some places around the city, including Zipperhead, a popular South Street clothing store. The video was filmed in Eastern State Penitentiary, and the song was like an anthem for punk culture after its release.

“Summertime” by Will Smith

Tree framing people sitting on the grass with a city skyline in the background.
The Belmont Plateau featured prominently in Will Smith’s “Summertime”

Will Smith wowed everyone with his role in the sitcom Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, which tells the story of a kid from West Philadelphia who moved in with his aunt and uncle in the Bel Air neighborhood of Los Angeles. While the fictional show was mostly based in California, Smith continued to honor his roots in his musical career outside of the show.

“Summertime” pays homage to Smith’s youth in Philadelphia. On this track, he worked with DJ Jazzy Jeff, another prominent local who had been his musical partner since the mid-80s, while they rapped about memories of Philly.

“Back in Philly, we be out in the park
A place called the Plateau is where everybody goes
Guys out hunting and girls doing likewise”

The song was released in 1991, and the video showcased different city spots, including Belmont Plateau, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Free Library, and Boathouse Row.

“I’m In a Philly Mood” by Daryl Hall

While one cannot call “Philly Mood” a huge hit, it surely has a place as one of the best songs about PhiladelphiaA Philly mood in the context of this song means grooving and holding your lover’s hands while enjoying the views of the city.

This fun love song goes:

“…Oh, baby, it’s been too long
I need to feel the same thing
That made that time our own
Oh, let’s make it groove
Taking it nice and smooth
I’m in a Philly Mood
Oh, baby come down
I wanna hold you now
I’m in a Philly mood…”

“I’m in a Philly Mood” was the first single from Daryl Hall’s 3rd studio album, Soul Alone. The song peaked at no. 82 on the US Billboard Hot 100.

“Fall in Philadelphia” by Hall & Oates

Monument in Washington Square Park
Fall in Washington Square Park

“I guess I have to face the fact as real
I think I feel my back up against the wall
I’m gonna spend another Fall in Philadelphia”

Philadelphia’s favorite sons Hall and Oates released “Fall in Philadelphia” in 1972 on their debut album Whole Oats, a combination of rock, folk, and soul. It’s not exactly an optimistic song as it describes Quaker City during a rough period in the late ’60s and early ’70s, but the city has adopted it as its own without any irony.

“Sailing To Philadelphia” by James Taylor

This is a perfect song to listen to while driving! In “Sailing to Philadelphia,” Mark Knopfler features James Taylor as they sang from the unexpected perspective of English surveyors Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon. Together, the Englishmen mapped the boundary that became known as the Mason-Dixon line between Pennsylvania and Maryland–not exactly the typical topic of a song. The details of the Knopfler and Taylor’s song were inspired by the book Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon.

“We are sailing to Philadelphia
A world away from the coaly Tyne
Sailing to Philadelphia
To draw the line
A Mason-Dixon Line”

“Streets of Philadelphia” by Bruce Springsteen

Sidewalk with steps leading to houses
Some of the nicer brick-lined streets in Old City

One of the most well-known songs about the city is “Streets of Philadelphia” by Bruce Springsteen. It is the theme song from the movie Philadelphia which stars Tom Hanks as a lawyer dying of AIDS, and its soundtrack had a fittingly melancholy vibe.

The music video features City Hall and Independence Hall as well as scenes from all over the city with Springsteen wandering through parks and trash-filled streets. It shows both friendly residents as well as the rougher side of the city. This Philly anthem was a hit around the world and won a Grammy and an Oscar for Best Original Song following its 1994 release.

“I was bruised and battered, I couldn’t tell what I felt
I was unrecognizable to myself
I saw my reflection in a window, I didn’t know my own face
Oh brother are you gonna leave me wastin’ away
On the Streets of Philadelphia”

“Philadelphia” by Neil Young

“Philadelphia” was another song from Philadelphia, the movie. Artist Neil Young‘s gripping voice came on towards the end of the movie as he begged Philly not to turn its back on him.

“City of brotherly love
Place I call home
Don’t turn your back on me
I don’t want to be alone
Love lasts forever”

This sad, emotional song was written to bring awareness to HIV and was also nominated for a Grammy. According to a biography about the singer, Young donated much of the profits from the song to Gay Men’s Health Crisis.

“Midnight in Philadelphia” by Lifehouse

Fountain at night with blue lights.
Philly at night

“I know what it’s like to hide
Sit in your room and break down and cry
And all I could say was your name
I’ve had my share of pain”

Lifehouse in this haunting song “Midnight in Philadelphia” sings about losing someone you loved over a mistake you could have avoided.

Meanwhile, in some interpretations, Lifehouse was in fact not singing about love or a person but about finding one’s way back to God, as the band has a spiritual overtone to many of their songs. Take a listen to the song to decide for yourself.

“The Heart of Rock and Roll” by Huey Lewis & The News

“The Heart of Rock & Roll” by Huey Lewis and the News is included on their album Sports. According to the artists, the song was inspired by a gig they played in Ohio. In the song, they concluded that “the real rock and roll is in other places besides New York and Los Angeles.” The song gives a shout out to the City of Brotherly Love.

The single peaked at no. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. It was nominated for Best Group Video at the first MTV Video Music Awards and for Record of the Year at the 1985 Grammy Awards.

“Sweet Little Sixteen” by Chuck Berry

“Sweet Little Sixteen
She’s just got to have
About half a million
Framed autographs
Her wallet’s filled with pictures
She gets ’em one by one
Become so excited
Watch her look at her run, boy”

Sweet Little Sixteen was recorded and released by Chuck Berry in 1958. This rock and roll hit, which references American Bandstand, peaked at no. 2 on Billboard Hot 100. Later versions of the song were done by The Beatles and separately by John Lennon.

“Going Back To Philly” by Jeru The Damaja

The support columns at the Philadelphia Graffiti Pier on the Delaware River.
Philly’s raw side

“Going back to Philly, wilin’, defilin’
Drunk Dialing, So violent
Always in the sun
Going back to Philly
Flippin’ um, lickin’ um
Scoopin’ over everything in sight”

“Going Back to Philly” was recorded by Jeru The Damaja, an American rapper born in 1972. In this track, the rapper sings about his hesitation to go back to Philly while painting pictures of things that go on in the city. It’s a parody of “Going Back to Cali” by LL Cool J and was recorded as a promotion for Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

“Philadelphia Lawyer” by Woody Guthrie

Come love, and we’ll go ramblin’
Down where the lights are so bright
I’ll win you a divorce from your husband
And we can get married tonight”

There’s absolutely nothing as magical as a great song telling a good story. Written by Woody Guthrie, “Philadelphia Lawyer” tells the story of a lawyer having an affair with another man’s ‘Hollywood Maid.’

In the song, the lawyer tried to convince the woman to get a divorce and go back with him to Philadelphia. However, Woody Guthrie ends the song with, “There’s one less Philadelphia lawyer in old Philadelphia tonight.” The song is on Guthrie’s 1997 album This Land is Your Land.

“Philadelphia March” by John Philip Sousa

This patriotic song pays homage to the military, Philadelphia, America, and past heroes who built the nation. It was composed by John Phillip Sousa, an American composer known for his military marches. Sousa wrote over 130 marches during his career.

“East River Drive” by Grover Washington, Jr.

Overhead view of the Schuylkill River crossed by a bridge in the distance
The Schuylkill River of Grover Washington’s masterpiece

Saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr. released his jazz album Come Morning in 1981. This album featured “East River Drive,” a 4-minute song inspired by a scenic road in Philadelphia that is popular with runners and bicyclists. Every spring, it blooms pink with cherry blossoms.

Washington spent most of his adult life in the city, often drawing from his surroundings and hobbies (including his love of the 76ers) to include in his work. He is honored on both the Philadelphia Music Alliance Walk of Fame and the Atlantic City Walk of Fame, and he is buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery a stone’s throw from East River Drive.

Check out our related article, the best songs about Pennsylvania.

3 thoughts on “19 Songs About Philadelphia for Your Playlist”

  1. This is a fantastic list Lance. Thank you!
    I have two more for you, “Philadelphia Child,” by Ursula Rucker and “Ms. Philadelphia,” by Musiq Soulchild. Both are on YouTube. I think a song or two Donald Byrd and John Coltrane could both on here too. Thx for your excellent research here!

  2. “Rock Show” by Paul McCartney
    The line is “Silly Willie with that Philly band”
    Steve Miller mentions Philly in “Keep on Rockin’ me baby”
    Also Springsteen mentions Philly in “Atlantic City”

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