“I used to be a heart beating for someone.” In case you don’t recognize this line, it’s a lyric from Elton John’s song, Philadelphia Freedom. I must have listened to this song hundreds of times since Elton wrote it in 1975 for his friend Billie Jean King, in honor of her tennis team, the Philadelphia Freedoms. But today was the first time that I really noticed this line and what it might mean.
On the surface, this is a song about the city of Philadelphia. 1975 was the year before the nation’s bicentennial. So, freedom and Philadelphia were on people’s minds, and the song fit right in. But the song is also about relationships.
I used to be a heart beating for someone
But the times have changed
It’s pretty obvious this line is about lost love.
Cause I live and breathe this Philadelphia freedom
How many times have you felt like you were free after the end of a relationship? I know that I’ve been guilty of that multiple times.
Oh Philadelphia freedom, shine on me, I love you
Shine the light, through the eyes of the ones left behind
And if you’re not convinced that the freedom that he loves is the freedom derived from walking away from bad relationships, here are some more lyrics.
If you choose to you can live your life alone
I like living easy without family ties
But the freedom is an illusion. Or freedom doesn’t imply happiness, as Elton so eloquently states later in the song.
I like living easy without family ties (living easy)
Till the whippoorwill* of freedom zapped me
Right between the eyes
Songwriters: Bernie Taupin / Elton John
Philadelphia Freedom lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group
* A whippoorwill is a North American songbird. It is known for its singing and its camouflage.