Elton John’s “Philadelphia Freedom”
Yesterday in 1975, Elton John’s song “Philadelphia Freedom” hit #1—the song’s in part a tribute to Philadelphia soul; we’ll be going into that with a little more depth in the next post in our series on Philly music history. But for now, if you don’t know what that means, the wiki will have to hold you over.
The song was written for the Philadelphia Freedoms tennis team; it’s in the World TeamTennis, a co-ed team-play league co-founded (or so says the Freedoms’ website) by John’s friend Billie Jean King in 1974, right after she won the Battle Of The Sexes against Bobby Riggs. At the time, they played at the Spectrum; for the past several years, they’ve been bouncing around various locations in the suburbs.
King was the Freedoms’ star player at the time, and she now owns and coaches the team, which counts Andy Roddick as a member. In fact, Sir Elton actually has played on a team with Roddick for charity a few times, which is pretty adorable, visually:
In the song, released as a single, you can hear the take on Gamble & Huff’s signature big orchestration—strings, flutes, etc. The tennis theme thankfully doesn’t extend beyond the title reference. John instead goes on about beating hearts, shining lights, waving flags, and, of course, the vague notion of freedom—a canny move given that the bicentennial was coming up, and if Mugatu was around then, he would have declared freedom “so hot right now.”
Last, because we get such a kick out of the cover art—but it got chopped off in the crop we used up top—here’s the full thing, where Elton’s giant grin can be seen in context with how he’s proprietorially resting his hands on the two guys’s heads, one of whom seems really displeased about the situation.