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"Philadelphia Freedom" is a song released by The Elton John Band as a single in 1975. The song was one of Elton John's seven #1 US hits during the early and mid-1970s, which saw his recordings dominating the charts. In Canada, it was his eighth single to hit the top of the RPM national singles chart.
The song was written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin as a favour to John's friend, tennis star Billie Jean King. King was part of the Philadelphia Freedoms professional tennis team. The song features an orchestral arrangement by Gene Page, including flutes, horns, and strings.
Recorded in the summer of 1974, during breaks between sessions for Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, the song was at the time the only song Elton John and Bernie Taupin ever consciously wrote as a single, as John told journalist Paul Gambaccini. John was looking to honour Billie Jean King, and so asked Taupin to write a song called "Philadelphia Freedom" as a homage to her tennis team.
In His Song: The Musical History of Elton John, Elizabeth Rosenthal recounts that Taupin said, "I can't write a song about tennis," and did not. Taupin maintains that the lyrics bear no relation to tennis, Philly Soul, or even flag-waving patriotism. Nonetheless, the lyrics have been interpreted as patriotic and uplifting, and even though released in 1975, the song's sentiment, intended or not, meshed perfectly with an American music audience gearing up for the country's bicentennial celebration in July 1976. In the US, the song was certified Gold in 1975 and Platinum in 1995 by the Recording Industry Association of America.
The song was dedicated in part to the Philadelphia sound: the music of the Delfonics, producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff; and The Spinners, producerThom Bell, with whom John would work two years later on The Thom Bell Sessions. This song plays in Philadelphia's Franklin Institute IMAX Theater before every show as a tribute to the city's love for freedom and its impact on the country. The lyrics are also printed on the walls of the Hard Rock Cafe in Philadelphia.
The B-side, "I Saw Her Standing There", is a live recording of the Elton John Band with John Lennon at Madison Square Garden on November 28, 1974. Three songs from that collaboration were featured on the 1975 album Elton John Band featuring John Lennon and the Muscle Shoals Horns (DJM Records). These recordings can also be found on the Lennon box set and the remastered edition of John'sHere and There album.
John performed the song on Soul Train (along with "Bennie and the Jets"). Crowds have heard it live in concert often through the years, including a rarely performed solo version in October 1999 that was released on Live in Madison Square Garden Vol. 1 for EltonJohn.com subscribers.