“Streets of Philadelphia” by Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen’s “Streets of Philadelphia” was made purposely for the movie “Philadelphia” which came out in 1993. The song speaks mainly about pain and abandonment. And this is apparently because the movie it was made for centers on an abandoned homosexual lawyer who dies from AIDS. The film’s objectives included bringing awareness to HIV/AIDS. It also sought to fight the canker of homophobia in the United States.

“Oh brother, are you gonna leave me wastin’ away
On the Streets of Philadelphia”

And while the song’s lyrics might seem as though they actually don’t touch directly on any of the aforementioned objectives of the film in question, they really do. For example, Springsteen mentions his clothes not fitting him anymore. This could be a direct reference to the fact that one of the symptoms of HIV is that it makes patients lose weight. And when you lose weight, your clothes obviously don’t fit anymore.


Despite “Streets of Philadelphia” being written for a movie, the lyrics were inspired by a real event. According to Springsteen, he was inspired to compose this classic after meeting with a real-life tragedy. Said tragedy was the sudden the death of a close friend. And Springsteen is apparently referencing that tragedy when he talks about hearing the “voices of friends” who are “vanished and gone“.

In addition to exclusively writing “Streets of Philadelphia”, Springsteen co-produced it. The production was handled by himself along with Charles Plotkin.

February, the Second of 1994 was the day Columbia Records released this. They released it as part of the official soundtrack album of the “Philadelphia” movie.

Springsteen later included this song on his 2003 compilation album (“The Essential Bruce Springsteen”). Other notable hits that featured on this project were:


In 1995, this classic earned Springsteen a total of four victories at the Grammys, including the coveted “Song of the Year” award. It also won him the “Best Rock Song” award.

Aside being a multiple Grammy winning song, “Streets of Philadelphia” is also an Oscar winning song. It won the “Best Original Song” category at the 66th edition of the Academy Awards. It also took home a Golden Globe in 1993, also in the “Best Original Song” Award category.

Readers should take note that before being approached by the producers of “Philadelphia”, Springsteen had never composed a song for a film. This is what makes the song’s achievements the more remarkable!

Chart Success

This was a singles charts topper in various countries, including Canada and Germany. It reached number nine (peak position) on the Hot 100. And in the UK, it made it to number 2 (peak position) on the UK Singles Chart.

Artists that have made covers of “Streets of Philadelphia”

Since the 1994 release of this classic, a ton of artists/bands have recorded/performed their cover versions. And they include Elton John, Tori Amos, The Fray, U2 and Gregorian.

Below is a footage of Elton John’s famous live performance of “Streets of Philadelphia”. This performance took place in 2013 at the Grammy’s “Musicares” tribute concert in honor of Springsteen.

Did Bruce Springsteen star in “Philadelphia”?

No. His only association with the film was composing its song. And by the way Tom Hanks plays the gay lawyer in the movie. For his brilliant portrayal of the character, he won an Academy Award for his role. Denzel Washington also starred in “Philadelphia”.

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