Wednesday, February 2, 1994

Bruce Springsteen released “Streets of Philadelphia”

Streets of Philadelphia

Bruce Springsteen

Writer(s): Bruce Springsteen (see lyrics here)

Released: February 2, 1994

First Charted: February 12, 1994

Peak: 9 US, 6 CB, 2 GR, 10 RR, 3 AC, 25 AR, 2 UK, 11 CN, 4 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.6 UK, 2.66 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 227.22 video, 345.33 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Movie director Jonathan Demme met Bruce Springsteen in 1985 on the video shoot for “Sun City.” They hadn’t seen each other since, but Demme reached out to Springsteen when he needed a song for Philadelphia, his 1993 movie starring Tom Hanks as a lawyer dying of AIDS. Springsteen told him “I’m interested so I’d like to come up with a song for you…but I can’t promise…I’m not very good at scores.” WK He had, in fact, never written a song specifically for a movie SF although he had given the song “Light of Day” to director Paul Schrader for his 1987 movie of the same name. SF

Demme wanted “the kind of soaring guitar-driven anthem for which the Asbury Park-bred artist was best known. What he got was better still: a profoundly reflective acoustic ballad from the perspective of the Hanks character, calmly recounting what is happening to him in an almost documentary-like fashion.” SS Springsteen reworked some lyrics he’d written about the death of a friend, but couldn’t get the song to work with a rock beat. SF He sent what he considered a demo to Demme. He and his wife sat and listened to it “and we were literally weeping by the end.” WK Demme thought it was perfect just the way it was. SF

Springsteen said, “I hope that this film, and in some smaller way the song, might take a chip out of the fear and intolerance and lack of compassion that we show one another.” HL Writer Christopher Sanford called it “the saddest track cut this decade.” WK The “moody ballad” AMG was “a surprising commercial comeback for Springsteen.” AMG It was his first top 10 hit since 1987’s “Tunnel of Love” and first gold single since 1985’s “My Hometown.” The song was a top 10 in the U.S. and hit #1 in Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, and Norway. WK

“Streets of Philadelphia” won the Oscar for Best Original Song and Grammys for Song of the Year, Best Rock Song, Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance, Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or Television. Springsteen performed it at the Academy Awards in March 1994, the MTV Video Music Awards in September 1994, and at the Grammy Awards in March 1995.


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First posted 2/27/2021; last updated 4/30/2024.

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