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Pennsylvania is known for its rich history. It’s one of the 13 original colonies, and it’s where the Declaration of Independence was signed. Besides reading history books and browsing the internet, one of the best (and most fun) ways to learn more about Pennsylvania is through music.
In this article, we’ll share with you the 11 most popular songs about Pennsylvania.
What You Will Learn
- 11 Songs About Pennsylvania
- 1. “Philadelphia Freedom” by Elton John
- 2. “Pennsylvania” by Eddie Khoury and Ronnie Bonner
- 3. “Allentown” by Billie Joel
- 4. “Streets of Philadelphia” by Bruce Springsteen
- 5. “I-76” by G. Love and Special Sauce
- 6. “Motownphilly” by Boyz II Men
- 7. “Amish Paradise” by “Weird” Al Yankovic
- 8. “Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania” by Guy Mitchell
- 9. “Harrisburg” by Josh Ritter
- 10. “30,000 Pounds of Bananas” by Harry Chapin
- 11. “Fall in Philadelphia” by Hall & Oates
- Final Thoughts on 11 Songs About Pennsylvania
11 Songs About Pennsylvania
Let’s check out some of the best songs about Pennsylvania. Most of them tell a story about a city, although this isn’t always the case.
1. “Philadelphia Freedom” by Elton John
“’Cause I live and breathe
This Philadelphia freedom
From the day that I was born
I’ve waved the flag.”
To better understand the song, it’s essential to explain its background. Elton John and his writing partner Bernie Taupin wrote this song to honor Billie Jean King, one of the singer’s closest friends. At the time, Billie Jean King was a member of the Philadelphia Freedoms tennis club, where the song got its title. Although it’s dedicated to King’s historical success, both she and Elton didn’t want to make it about tennis. Instead, the song revolves around the feeling of freedom.
There’s also another possible interpretation: The song could be telling a story about 1776 and how the American people finally became free.
2. “Pennsylvania” by Eddie Khoury and Ronnie Bonner
Mighty is your name,
Steeped in glory and tradition,
Object of acclaim,
Where brave men fought the foe of freedom,
Til the bell of Independence
Filled the countryside.”
The song was recognized as the state’s official anthem in 1990. It highlights the important events that took place in Pennsylvania and changed history, such as breaking away from British rule. The song honors all people that fought for independence and sacrificed their lives for freedom.
The narrator talks about Pennsylvania as the nation’s birthplace and hopes its future will be as bright as its past.
3. “Allentown” by Billie Joel
“Well, we’re waiting here in Allentown,
For the Pennsylvania we never found,
For the promises our teachers gave,
If we worked hard,
If we behaved.”
Although he didn’t grow up in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Billie Joel wrote a song about it. He was going to name it “Levittown” first but thought it might sound boring.
This song is about the changing economy and how hard it is for workers to find their place. It emphasizes how hard work, dedication, and obeying the rules may not be enough for a happy life. Merely having a diploma doesn’t mean you’re ready for the “real” world and everyday struggles.
4. “Streets of Philadelphia” by Bruce Springsteen
“I was bruised and battered, I couldn’t tell what I felt,
I was unrecognizable to myself,
I saw my reflection in a window, I didn’t know my own face,
Oh, brother, are you gonna leave me wastin’ away,
On the streets of Pennsylvania?”
Bruce Springsteen wrote this song for the movie “Philadelphia.” The film starred Tom Hanks, and it’s a story about dealing with HIV (AIDS). It conveys a powerful message both with and without the movie. The song describes how people with AIDS feel alone and helpless. The narrator roams the streets of Philadelphia by himself and feels confused and estranged.
5. “I-76” by G. Love and Special Sauce
“’Cause If you gotta get downtown real quick,
Then the only way to go is I-76,
Unless, of course, you want to take that scenic view,
Then East or West River Drive is right for you.”
G. Love was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, so he dedicated this song to his hometown. The eastern part of I-76 (Interstate 76), also known as “the Schuylkill” (pronounced “school kill”), runs directly through Philadelphia. The track is filled with Pennsylvania references and symbols like the 76ers (Philadelphia 76ers, the NBA team), numerous basketball players, and landmarks.
The narrator remembers the good times he had while growing up in the city and mentions different routes that take you to downtown Philadelphia.
6. “Motownphilly” by Boyz II Men
“The East Coast Philly
Never skipped a beat
While cooling on South Street,
Jet black Benz, plenty of friends,
And all the Philly steaks you can eat.”
This song was the first single Boyz II Men released. It’s a tribute to their hometown and tells a story about how they were discovered.
The song’s title is especially symbolic: “Motown” was the name of the label they signed to, and “Philly” is Philadelphia’s nickname. In the original video, the group walks the streets of Philadelphia and performs in front of its most popular spots, such as Temple University and Geno’s Steaks.
7. “Amish Paradise” by “Weird” Al Yankovic
“We’ve been spending most of our lives
Living in an Amish paradise,
I’ve churned butter once or twice,
Living in an Amish paradise.”
Pennsylvania has the highest concentration of Amish communities in the U.S. The oldest and most significant one resides in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The comedian “Weird” Al published this song as a humorous response to Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise.” It uses the same beat, but it discusses the Amish culture and the surrounding tourism.
In the video, you can even see the “Welcome to Lancaster” sign.
8. “Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania” by Guy Mitchell
“And I walk up and down ‘neath the clock,
(By the pawnshop on a corner in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania),
But I ain’t got a thing left to hock.”
Even though the song was released back in 1952, it still charms with its catchy rhythm. The narrator tells a story about a beautiful girl he wants to impress by convincing her he is rich. He’s trying to think of a way to get money from the pawnshop but concludes he doesn’t have anything left.
9. “Harrisburg” by Josh Ritter
“It’s a long way to heaven, it’s closer to Harrisburg,
And that’s still a long way from the place where we are,
And if evil exists, it’s a pair of train tracks
And the devil is a railroad car.”
This song is a story about a man named Romero and has a historical setting: the Industrial Revolution. Although this was a time of incredible progress, many forget people were separated from their hometowns and families for work. In this song, Romero is building tracks far away from home. He compares train tracks to evil and blames them for most of his problems.
10. “30,000 Pounds of Bananas” by Harry Chapin
“It was just after dark when the truck started down
The hill that leads into Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Carrying 30,000 pounds of bananas,
Carrying 30,000 pounds of bananas.”
This moving song is based on a real-life event that happened in 1965 in Scranton, Pennsylvania. A driver lost control of his truck while going down Moosic Street. Instead of jumping out of it, the brave driver stayed to blow the air horn and warned everyone else to get out of the way. Eventually, he crashed at the corner of Moosic Street and South Irving Avenue. Thanks to his sacrifice, nobody else died in this horrible accident.
Harry Chapin dedicated the song to this event and praised the driver’s bravery. Today, trucks aren’t allowed to drive down that street anymore.
11. “Fall in Philadelphia” by Hall & Oates
“I guess I have to face the fact as real,
I think I feel my back up against the wall,
I am gonna spend another fall in Philadelphia.”
There probably isn’t a better song to play when it’s turning fall in Philadelphia; you can almost feel the rain pouring when listening to it. Although many enjoy Philadelphia falls, the narrator doesn’t like it. He describes how everything is becoming grey, and he wishes he could move to the country. He concludes the song by facing reality: He’s staying in Philadelphia.
Final Thoughts on 11 Songs About Pennsylvania
Getting to know a state through music is always fascinating. If you’ve already visited Pennsylvania, some of these songs may remind you of good times, beautiful scenery, and the state’s history. If you haven’t, we hope this collection of 11 songs about Pennsylvania inspired you to do so.
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