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Streets of Philadelphia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"Streets of Philadelphia"
Streets of Philadelphia.jpg
Single by Bruce Springsteen
from the album Philadelphia Official Soundtrack
B-side"If I Should Fall Behind"
ReleasedFebruary 2, 1994
RecordedAugust 1993
StudioThrill Hill West (Beverly Hills, California)[1]
GenreSoft rock[2]
  • 3:15 (single edit)
  • 3:50 (CD soundtrack version)
  • 4:12 (LP soundtrack version)
Songwriter(s)Bruce Springsteen[3]
Bruce Springsteen singles chronology
"Lucky Town"
"Streets of Philadelphia"
"Secret Garden"

"Streets of Philadelphia" is a song written and performed by American rock musician Bruce Springsteen for the film Philadelphia (1993) starring Tom Hanks, an early mainstream film dealing with HIV/AIDS.[4] Released as a single in 1994, the song was a hit in many countries, particularly in Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, and Norway, where it topped the singles charts. In the United States, the single peaked at number nine on the Billboard Hot 100.

The song received acclaim and went on to win the Academy Award for Best Original Song[3] and four Grammy Awards: Song of the Year, Best Rock Song, Best Rock Vocal Performance, Solo, and Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or Television.[5] In 2004, it finished at number 68 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema.[6]

The song is listed among the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.[7]

Background and release

In early 1993, Philadelphia director Jonathan Demme asked Springsteen to write a song for his film, adding "I want it to play in the malls." Springsteen replied, "Well, I'm interested, so I'd like to come up with a song for you. If you give me some time, I'll see, but I can't promise." Springsteen recalled adding, "I'm not very good at scores". In late August, after the conclusion of the "Other Band" Tour, he recorded a demo of his completed song at Thrill Hill Recording, Beverly Hills, California (his home studio), supplying all of the instrumentation. He mailed the tape to Demme, who later said, "my wife and I sat down and listened to it, and we were literally weeping by the end".[8] Meanwhile, background vocals were added by Tommy Sims (from the "Other Band"). In October, Springsteen recorded it at A&M Studios in Los Angeles, with Sims, Ornette Coleman on saxophone, and vocals by "Little" Jimmy Scott. It was mixed by Bob Clearmountain, included in the soundtrack, and the video was shot. However, in mid-December, Springsteen suddenly replaced it with his home demo from August, re-shooting some video scenes to eliminate Scott. The four-man combo version can be heard in a brief scene in the film when Tom Hanks exits Denzel Washington's office, but it was Bruce alone playing over the opening credits. "Streets of Philadelphia" was released on February 2, 1994, as the first single from the film's original soundtrack, with Springsteen singing and playing all the instruments and Tommy Sims on background vocals, and became a chart success worldwide.[9]

"Streets of Philadelphia" achieved greater popularity in Europe than in the United States. While it peaked at number nine on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, it became a number-one single in Germany, France and Austria. It peaked at number two in the United Kingdom,[3] becoming Springsteen's highest charting hit in Britain, and number four in Australia. As of 2012, "Streets of Philadelphia" ranks as his most recent top ten hit. The song was included on the album All Time Greatest Movie Songs, released by Sony in 1999.

Critical reception

Larry Flick from Billboard wrote, "Springsteen's empathetic lyrics and performance zoom straight for the heart, traveling atop a slow and sturdy beat and pillowy synths. A powerful song with or without the image of the film to support it."[10] Robert Hilburn from Los Angeles Times deemed it "a moving ballad about a man whose body is being destroyed by AIDS", and "a work that shows Springsteen, despite all the questions raised by changes in his life in recent years, can still write purposeful songs that connect on a deeply emotional level." He added, "Springsteen sings in a voice that expresses the helplessness and heartache of someone dying of AIDS as convincingly as Springsteen once conveyed the dreams and aspirations of youth."[11] Music writer James Masterton said in his weekly UK chart commentary, "However good it may be the brooding ballad is hardly classic Bruce and can be expected to shuttle rapidly out next week".[12] A reviewer from Music & Media commented, "The man who used to walk upon E-Street, now roams the Philly lanes. This synth-dominated track from the OST Philadelphia revives the "etherealism" of Tunnel Of Love."[13]

Music video

The music video for the song, directed by Jonathan Demme and his nephew Ted Demme in December 1993, begins by showing Springsteen walking along desolate city streets, followed by a bustling park and schoolyard, interspersed with footage from the film. After a quick shot of Rittenhouse Square, it ends with Springsteen walking along the Delaware River, with the Benjamin Franklin Bridge in the background. Tom Hanks is also visible as the lead character he plays in the film, looking on as Bruce begins the final verse. One newspaper review called it "the saddest track cut this decade".[8]

The vocal track for the video was recorded live with a hidden microphone, to a pre-recorded instrumental track. This technique, appropriate for emotionally intense songs for which conventional video lip-syncing would seem especially false, was used by John Mellencamp in part on his 1985 "Rain on the Scarecrow" video, and by Springsteen, in his 1987 "Brilliant Disguise" video, singing the song directly into the camera as he sits on the edge of his chair on a Sandy Hook, New Jersey sound stage.[14]

Live performance history

Because of the song's sterling achievements in the awards world, Springsteen played the song live in three high-visibility, prime-time awards show broadcasts: at the 66th Academy Awards in March 1994, at the MTV Video Music Awards in September 1994, and at the Grammy Awards of 1995 in March 1995. Between this, Philadelphia's strong box office performance, and the single being a Top 10 pop hit, "Streets of Philadelphia" became one of Springsteen's best-known songs to the general music audience.

Nonetheless, Springsteen went on to perform the song only sparingly in his own concerts. In solo guitar form and missing the song's trademark synthesizers-and-drums feel, it was performed semi-regularly on the solo and stark 1995–1997 Ghost of Tom Joad Tour. After that, the song became a rarity, only appearing a dozen times on the 1999–2000 E Street Band Reunion Tour, and, as of January 2016, only a few times across the nine tours after that.


Cover versions

The song has been covered live by Jack Folland , Tori Amos, Melissa Etheridge, David Gray, Waxahatchee and Lonely the Brave. Recorded covers have been released by Ray Conniff (on his 1997 album, I Love Movies), Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, Marah, Liv Kristine, Molly Johnson, Bettye LaVette, SALEM, Gregorian and I Muvrini with Anggun. Philadelphia rappers, Cassidy & the Larsiny Family have made a cover of this song on the Put Ya L in the Sky mixtape, in an effort to stop crime in the city. French artist Patrick Bruel and U2 covered the song, translating the lyrics into French while retaining the music.

After the movie Philadelphia was released, many artists covered it. In 1993, when Rhino Records assembled its box set, Academy Award Winning Songs (1934–1993), the same year, it was unable to license the Springsteen track and instead commissioned Richie Havens to record a cover version.[15]

In 2010, the French string quartet Quatuor Ébène recorded a version on their album Fiction, with drummer Richard Héry, sung by the quartet's violist Mathieu Herzog.

The song is also covered by The Fray on their album Scars and Stories, released in 2012.

In 2011, the German group Gregorian released a Gregorian chant version of the song in their album Masters of Chant Chapter VIII.

Also in 2011, Idols South Africa season seven winner Dave van Vuuren performed the song on the show and recorded it on his album "Free the Animals".[16]

In 2009, it was covered by Luis Eduardo Aute in Catalan as "Els carrers de Philadelphia", for the CD of TV3's telethon La Marató.[17]

In February 2013, Sir Elton John performed the song at the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences tribute concert honoring Bruce Springsteen as the 2013 MusiCares Person of the Year.[18]

Fat White Family's Saul Adamczewski and Childhood (band)'s Ben Romans-Hopcraft covered the song on their 2018 album Karaoke for One: Vol 1 under the band name Insecure Men.

Waxahatchee covered the song in 2021 for the deluxe issue of her 2020 album Saint Cloud.


Track listings

  • CD single / 7-inch single / Cassette
  1. "Streets of Philadelphia" – 3:15
  2. "If I Should Fall Behind" – 4:43
  • CD maxi / Maxi cassette
  1. "Streets of Philadelphia" – 3:15
  2. "If I Should Fall Behind" – 4:43
  3. "Growin' Up" – 3:13
  4. "The Big Muddy" – 4:11

The B-sides were selected from the previous year's live album In Concert/MTV Plugged.



Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[44] Gold 35,000^
Austria (IFPI Austria)[61] Gold 25,000*
Denmark (IFPI Danmark)[62] Gold 45,000double-dagger
France (SNEP)[63] Gold 250,000*
Germany (BVMI)[64] Gold 250,000^
Italy (FIMI)[65] Gold 25,000*
Norway (IFPI Norway)[66] Gold  
United Kingdom (BPI)[67] Platinum 600,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[68] Gold 500,000^

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

See also


  1. ^ Dolan, Marc (2013). BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN and the PROMISE of ROCK 'N' ROLL. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. pp. 230–231. Retrieved February 9, 2020.
  2. ^ Kline, Steven (September 27, 2017). "Album Review: The Killers – Wonderful Wonderful". Gigwise. Retrieved December 3, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 137. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  4. ^ King, Alex P. (2004). Hit-parade — 20 ans de tubes (in French). Paris: Pascal. p. 341. ISBN 2-35019-009-9.
  5. ^ "1994 Grammy Winners". Grammy Awards. Retrieved February 15, 2021.
  6. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs". American Film Institute. Retrieved February 15, 2021.
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b Sandford, Christopher (1999). SPRINGSTEEN Point Blank. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company. pp. 220–221. Retrieved February 9, 2020.
  9. ^ Dolan, Marc (2013). BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN and the PROMISE of ROCK 'N' ROLL. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. pp. 230–231. Retrieved February 9, 2020.
  10. ^ Flick, Larry (February 19, 1994). "Single Reviews" (PDF). Billboard. p. 57. Retrieved March 17, 2021.
  11. ^ Hilburn, Robert (July 7, 1994). "Calendar > Comment On Entertainment > Today's Top 10 List From Our Home Office". p. B8. Los Angeles Times.
  12. ^ Masterton, James (March 13, 1994). "Week Ending March 19th 1994". Chart Watch UK. Retrieved September 6, 2021.
  13. ^ "New Releases: Singles" (PDF). Music & Media. February 12, 1994. p. 11. Retrieved March 9, 2021.
  14. ^ Luerssen, John (2012). Springsteen FAQ All That's Left to Know About the Boss. New York, NY: Backbeat Books. p. 279. ISBN 978-1617130939. Retrieved February 9, 2020.
  15. ^ [1] All Music – Song Review
  16. ^ Archived February 22, 2014, at the Wayback Machine, Retrieved 4 February 2014
  17. ^ El disc de la Marató de TV3 – Televisió de Catalunya
  18. ^ USA Today
  19. ^ " – Bruce Springsteen – Streets of Philadelphia". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved April 7, 2020.
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  22. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 2407." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved July 17, 2018.
  23. ^ "Top RPM Adult Contemporary: Issue 2450." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved July 17, 2018.
  24. ^ "Top 10 Sales in Europe" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 11 no. 19. May 7, 1994. p. 13. Retrieved April 7, 2020.
  25. ^ "Eurochart Hot 100 Singles" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 11 no. 14. April 2, 1994. p. 18. Retrieved November 25, 2019.
  26. ^ Nyman, Jake (2005). Suomi soi 4: Suuri suomalainen listakirja (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Helsinki: Tammi. ISBN 951-31-2503-3.
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  35. ^ " – Bruce Springsteen – Streets of Philadelphia". VG-lista. Retrieved April 7, 2020.
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  62. ^ "Danish single   certifications". IFPI Danmark. Retrieved October 21, 2020.
  63. ^ "French single   certifications – Bruce Springsteen – Streets of Philadelphia" (in French). Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique. Retrieved April 7, 2020.
  64. ^ "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (Bruce Springsteen; 'Streets of Philadelphia')" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie. Retrieved April 7, 2020.
  65. ^ "Italian single   certifications – Bruce Springsteen – Streets of Philadelphia" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved April 7, 2020. Select "1994" in the "Anno" drop-down menu. Select "Streets of Philadelphia" in the "Filtra" field. Select "Singoli" under "Sezione".
  66. ^ "IFPI Norsk platebransje Trofeer 1993–2011" (in Norwegian). IFPI Norway. Retrieved April 7, 2020.
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  68. ^ "American single   certifications – Bruce Springsteen – Streets of Philadelphia". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved April 7, 2020.

External links

This page was last edited on 7 September 2021, at 06:09
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