27 Best Songs About Philadelphia

Philadelphia is known as the City of Brotherly Love and has inspired many songs. Some of the best tunes about the city come from high-profile artists.

Here is a list of songs that showcase why Philadelphia is such an inspiring place.

“Philly Dog” by Herbie Mann

Song Year: 1966

An upbeat instrumental tune, Philly Dog captures the atmosphere and emotion of living in Philadelphia. Mann takes the central role in music with his flute work. Still, this classic song also mixes in numerous other musicians on guitar, drums, trumpet, saxophone, and more.

These are all tied together with Rufus Thomas’ composition and Jimmy Wisner’s arrangement.

“Philly Night” by Berry Jones

Song Year: 2010

Berry Jones isn’t as well-known as some other artists on this list, but his heartfelt tune about summer nights in the city genuinely captures the spirit and emotion of Philadelphia.

Accompanying vocal work from other singers adds to the harmony of this song, which is an important trait when discussing a city so focused on its culture.

“Night Train” by James Brown

Song Year: 1961

A classic R&B hit from the start of the sixties, Night Train, is relatively sparse on lyrics and emphasizes its longer instrumental sections as it goes through a range of mentioned cities, including Philadelphia.

Somewhat unusually, this song works better, seen instead of just heard. The band members worked dance and other visual effects into their performance and wrote it to be experienced that way, so sit back and enjoy a tune that crossed the country.

“Rock’n Me” by Steve Miller Band

Song Year: 1976

This classic rock/folk song name-drops Philadelphia as part of what’s technically a love song. In it, Miller discusses the challenge of finding a job but emphasizes that the primary reason for doing it is love and creating a better life.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it promotes rock and roll throughout its lyrics (in both interpretations). The Steve Miller Band may not be at the top of the rocking world, but their range of hits through the 70s means they remain a recognized part of classic rock and entirely worth listening to.

“Kids From Philly” by George Thorogood & The Destroyers

Song Year: 1980

George Thorogood is unquestionably one of Philadelphia’s biggest fans, and that comes across by the fact that he’s got more than one song on this list.

“Kids From Philly” is a short, upbeat instrumental track featuring guitar, drums, bass, and saxophone, supported by Jorge Thoroscum’s excellent composition for the song.

“Off to Philadelphia” by John McCormack

Song Year: 1941

Widely recognized as one of Ireland’s finest singers, John McCormack’s “Off to Philadelphia” is a diner-style song recorded relatively late. It emphasized Philadelphia’s Irish-heavy population as a reason to travel there.

It’s especially poignant as a song about his own life, as he gained citizenship in the United States a few decades after his birth in Ireland.

“Off to Philadelphia” is especially good as a showcase of McCormack’s overall breath control, where he significantly outperforms even many of today’s leading singers.

“East River Drive” by Grover Washington, Jr.

Song Year: 1981

East River Drive is a jazzy tune inspired by a nine-mile stretch of the city often used for biking and walking. Although it was renamed Kelly Drive a few years after this song came out, it remains one of the most beloved destinations in the city and features some of the river’s best views.

Emotions in jazz can range widely, but “East River Drive” includes a mix of cheerful, peaceful, and optimistic sections to help bring in the experience of strolling through Philadelphia.

“Freddie Freeloader” by Miles Davis

Song Year: 1959

It takes a special kind of fan to get a song named after themselves, but according to Monty Alexander, Miles Davis named this song after a fan who constantly tried to see Davis’ music without paying for it.

At nearly ten minutes long, this modal jazz tune is significantly longer than most of today’s popular songs, making it a more distinctive experience to listen to. Unusually, the final two bars in the music change things up from the traditional styling.

“The Liberty Bell (march)” by John Sousa

Song Year: 1893

Easily one of the oldest songs on this list, initially written by Sousa for an unfinished operetta before changing to focus on the iconic Liberty Bell.

Sousa has written many patriotic marches, but this one is popular enough to see frequent use in presidential inaugurations and is played today at the Liberty Bell Center in Philadelphia.

“The Liberty Bell” had also seen time on television when the famous comedy group Monty Python used it for introductory content and at the end of one of their films. Some people call Philadelphia the Cradle of Freedom and songs like this show why.

“Philadelphia Lawyer” Song by Woody Guthrie

Song Year: 1937/1944/1964

This song had an unusual path to recording. Guthrie originally wrote it in 1937 after his show partner, “Lefty Lou” Crissman, showed him a news article about a lawyer from Philadelphia shot in Nevada.

Amused, Guthrie penned lyrics and set them to a tune called The Jealous Lover, playing it across California but not bothering to record it. Eventually, Rose Maddox renamed it and performed it, and Guthrie finally recorded it in 1944. However, it didn’t see widespread release until 1964.

Despite being relatively short at just two and a half minutes, the song is a cheerful retelling of the events that led to the news article, condensing an exciting story into an upbeat guitar song.

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