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Pennsylvania, one of the original thirteen colonies, has a rich history and a diverse culture that is reflected in its music. From Billy Joel’s “Allentown” to The Lemonheads’ “Pittsburgh”, Pennsylvania has been a source of inspiration for countless musicians over the years. The state is known for its bustling cities, beautiful countryside, and its contribution to American culture through the steel, coal, and railroad industries. Pennsylvania’s musical heritage spans from polka to hip hop, and many popular musicians have hailed from the state, including Taylor Swift, The Roots, and Christina Perri. The songs about Pennsylvania are not only a celebration of the state’s history, but they also capture the essence of its people, their struggles, and their triumphs. This list of the best songs about Pennsylvania showcases the state’s vibrant musical heritage and celebrates the many artists who have paid tribute to the Keystone State through their music. Whether you’re a lifelong Pennsylvanian or simply have an affinity for the state’s culture and history, these songs are sure to resonate with you and evoke a sense of pride in the state that has inspired so many great artists.
1. “Allentown” By Billy Joel
“Allentown” is a song by American singer-songwriter Billy Joel, released in 1982. The song is a powerful and emotional tribute to the working-class people of Allentown, Pennsylvania, and touches on themes of economic struggle, generational divides, and the fading promise of the American Dream. The song features a haunting and powerful melody, with Joel’s soulful vocals and stirring piano playing providing a fitting backdrop to the lyrics. The lyrics are full of vivid and evocative imagery, with lines like “we’re waiting here in Allentown, for the Pennsylvania we never found” and “every child had a pretty good shot to get at least as far as their old man got.”
2. “Philadelphia Freedom” By Elton John
“Philadelphia Freedom” is a song by English musician Elton John, released in 1975. The song is a high-energy tribute to the city of Philadelphia and its iconic professional sports teams, particularly the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team. The song features a catchy and upbeat melody, with John’s soaring vocals and the band’s dynamic instrumentation giving the track a lively and infectious feel. The lyrics are full of references to Philadelphia’s sports culture, with lines like “I love you, yes I do, like Clyde loves Bonnie, like the Pacers love Reggie Miller” and “you know that you’re the only one who can send me running to that Philadelphia freedom.” One of the standout elements of “Philadelphia Freedom” is the way that the song captures the spirit of camaraderie and competition that is at the heart of sports fandom. The song celebrates the passion and loyalty of Philadelphia sports fans, and speaks to the way that sports can bring people together and inspire a sense of community and pride.
3. “Pennsylvania Polka” By Frankie Yankovic
“Pennsylvania Polka” is a song by American musician Frankie Yankovic, released in 1942. The song is a joyful and upbeat celebration of Pennsylvania’s vibrant polka music scene, and has become an iconic representation of the state’s rich musical heritage. The song features a lively and infectious melody, with Yankovic’s accordion playing and the band’s energetic instrumentation giving the track a rollicking and celebratory feel. The lyrics are full of references to Pennsylvania’s polka traditions, with lines like “the Pennsylvania polka, it’s not a slow polka, it’s not a quick polka, but it’s a polka that’s all its own.”
4. “Streets Of Philadelphia” By Bruce Springsteen
“Streets of Philadelphia” is a song by American musician Bruce Springsteen, released in 1994. The song was written for the film Philadelphia, which tells the story of a lawyer with AIDS who is wrongfully fired from his law firm, and features Tom Hanks in the lead role. The song features a haunting and somber melody, with Springsteen’s mournful vocals and sparse instrumentation giving the track a sense of deep emotional weight. The lyrics are full of references to the struggles of people living with HIV/AIDS, and speak to the sense of isolation and despair that can accompany the disease. One of the standout elements of “Streets of Philadelphia” is the way that the song captures the sense of loneliness and desperation that is often associated with HIV/AIDS. The song speaks to the need for compassion and understanding in the face of a disease that can be both physically and emotionally devastating.
5. “Motownphilly” By Boyz II Men
“Motownphilly” is a song by American R&B vocal group Boyz II Men, released in 1991. The song is a tribute to the group’s hometown of Philadelphia, and features a fusion of Motown-style soul music and hip hop, with catchy hooks and infectious beats. The song’s opening line, “It’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday,” has become one of the most iconic lines in popular music, and speaks to the group’s roots in Philadelphia’s rich soul and R&B traditions. The song’s lyrics also reference famous landmarks and cultural touchstones in the city, such as the Liberty Bell and the Rocky statue.
6. “Fall In Philadelphia” By Hall & Oates
“Fall in Philadelphia” is a song by the American pop duo Hall & Oates, released in 1973. The song is a reflection on the changing of the seasons, and the melancholy beauty of the autumn months in the city of Philadelphia. The song features a slow, dreamy melody, with haunting vocals and subtle instrumentation that creates a sense of quiet introspection. The lyrics describe the changing colors of the leaves, the chill in the air, and the sense of nostalgia that can accompany the passing of time. One of the standout elements of “Fall in Philadelphia” is the way that the song captures the essence of the city and its unique seasonal rhythms. The song speaks to the sense of continuity and change that can be found in any urban environment, and celebrates the beauty and complexity of life in a vibrant and diverse metropolis.
7. “Harrisburg” By Josh Ritter
“Harrisburg” is a song by American singer-songwriter Josh Ritter, released in 2003. The song is a reflection on the aftermath of a devastating flood that hit the city of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in 1972. The song features a driving, rhythmic melody, with vivid lyrics that paint a picture of the destruction and chaos caused by the flood. The lyrics describe the devastation wrought by the flood, and the sense of loss and displacement that many of the city’s residents experienced in its wake. One of the standout elements of “Harrisburg” is the way that the song captures the resilience and strength of the people of the city in the face of such a devastating event. The song speaks to the power of community and the ability of people to come together and rebuild in the wake of tragedy.
8. “Philly, Philly” By Eve
“Philly, Philly” is a song by American rapper and actress Eve, released in 1999. The song is a tribute to the city of Philadelphia, which is often affectionately referred to as “Philly”. The song features a catchy, upbeat melody, with playful lyrics that celebrate the energy and vibrancy of the city. The lyrics describe the many things that make Philadelphia unique, from its famous cheesesteaks to its rich cultural heritage and history. One of the standout elements of “Philly, Philly” is the way that the song captures the sense of pride and identity that many Philadelphians feel for their city. The song speaks to the deep connection that many people have to the city and its rich cultural traditions, and celebrates the diversity and dynamism that make Philadelphia such a special place.
9. “Camptown Races” By Stephen Foster
“Camptown Races” is a song written by American composer Stephen Foster, and was first published in 1850. The song is a lively and upbeat tune that is often associated with the state of Pennsylvania, where it has become a beloved folk song. The lyrics of “Camptown Races” describe a group of people traveling to a horse race in the town of “Camptown”, where they enjoy the festivities and place bets on the horses. The song features a catchy melody, with simple but memorable lyrics that are easy to sing along with. One of the standout elements of “Camptown Races” is the way that the song captures the spirit of celebration and community that is often associated with horse racing events. The song speaks to the joy and excitement that people feel when they come together to share in a common experience, and celebrates the sense of connection and camaraderie that is fostered by such events.
10. “Pittsburgh” By The Lemonheads
“Pittsburgh” is a song by American alternative rock band The Lemonheads, released in 1993. The song is a tribute to the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and captures the unique character and personality of this historic and culturally rich city. The lyrics of “Pittsburgh” describe the experience of visiting the city, with its distinctive neighborhoods and iconic landmarks like the Allegheny River and the Carnegie Museum of Art. The song features a driving, upbeat melody, with lyrics that evoke the excitement and energy of exploring a new place. One of the standout elements of “Pittsburgh” is the way that the song captures the distinctive blend of history, culture, and modernity that characterizes the city. The song speaks to the sense of pride and identity that many Pittsburgh residents feel for their city, and celebrates the unique character and personality that make Pittsburgh such a special place.