1001 Songs Challenge,  1990s,  Music

1001 Songs Challenge #787: Streets of Philadelphia (1993)

On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenge of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.

My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.

I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.

So long as I post every day (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be…


Bruce Springsteen – Streets of Philadelphia (1993)

Streets of Philadelphia – Wikipedia

” 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. 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.


Lyrics (via Genius)


We’re leaving the UK and making our way back to the US and New Jersey. It is a third appearance on our list from The Boss aka Bruce Springsteen. He appeared in 1975 with Born to Run and in 1984 with Born in the U.S.A. It’s now 1993 and Springsteen has been approached by director, Jonathan Demme, to write a song for a new film named Philadelphia. Taking on the assignment, a nervous Springsteen came up with Streets of Philadelphia.

The 1993 Oscar winning Philadelphia dealt with the serious issue of HIV/AIDS with Tom Hanks’ character, Andrew Beckett, dismissed from his job at a law firm having hidden his homosexuality and the fact he is HIV positive. Beckett ends up taking his former employers to court for unlawful dismissal. Springsteen taps into the premise by describing an individual wandering the streets of Philadelphia and essentially fading from existence with every step they take. Though the song doesn’t say this person has AIDS they are clearly ill, emaciated, wearing clothes that no longer fit and sanctuary seems far from them. They soldier on through Philadelphia but it is a lonely path with little or no hope left. 

Despite Bruce Springsteen’s reservations, Streets of Philadelphia would be a huge success, reaching the Top 10 in many countries including no.2 in the UK. While Philadelphia saw Tom Hanks win an Oscar for his performance, Springsteen himself also received an Oscar for his song. It remains a chilling but poignant piece, no heavy guitar here or melody bursting with energy. Instead, it is a sombre and thought-provoking piece.


Favourite songs so far:

The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)

Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)

The Beatles – A Day in the Life (1967)

The Doors – The End (1967)

Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (1975)

Meat Loaf – Bat Out of Hell (1977)

Ultravox – Vienna (1980)

Tracy Chapman – Fast Car (1988)

U2 – One (1991)

Suede – Animal Nitrate (1993)

My name is Dave and I live in Yorkshire in the north of England and have been here all my life. I hope you enjoy your visit to All is Ephemeral.

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