Thursday Inspiration #146 Philadelphia Freedom

Respond to this challenge, by either by using the prompt word light, or going with the above picture, or by means of the song ‘Philadelphia Freedom’, or by going with another song by Elton John, or anything else that you think fits.  In February 1975, Elton released the single ‘Philadelphia Freedom’ which was not made available on an album until it was included on Elton John’s Greatest Hits Volume 2 in 1977.  The song with lyrics written by Bernie Taupin charted #1 in the US and it reached #12 in the UK.  Elton suggested to Bernie that he write a song with this title in honor of his friend, the tennis player Billie Jean King, because she coached a team called the Philadelphia Freedoms.  Taupin used the suggested title, but he wrote the song about the Philadelphia soul sound that was exhibited from groups like The O’Jays and Melvin & The Blue Notes, and he was also influenced by the American bicentennial, as the US was celebrating 200 years of independence.

In 1973, Elton John and Billie Jean King were both at the top of their game.  Elton was in the midst of a sold-out tour of the United States and was about to release what would be his most successful studio record ever, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, while at this same time Billie Jean King won her fifth Wimbledon singles championship.  In September of ’73, they became good friends after meeting at a party that was thrown by promoter Jerry Parencio in LA two weeks before the King/Riggs match labeled the “Battle of the Sexes”.  Tony King, the man who first introduced Elton John to John Lennon and they immediately forged a firm friendship was at the party and me introduced Elton to Billie Jean.  They hit it off, becoming good friends, as he loved tennis and she loved music.  Elton tried to attend as many of her matches as he could, and he promised King a song after she gave him a customized track suit.

Gays and lesbians made real progress in the 1970s, coming on the heels of the 1969 Stonewall riots, and in 1973, the board of the American Psychiatric Association voted to remove homosexuality from its list of psychiatric disorders.  Early in his career Elton pretended to be straight and he married Renate Blauel back in 1984.  It wasn’t a very successful marriage because the media immediately realized that it was just supposed to cover up Elton’s sexuality.  Elton and Billie Jean King would become icons of the gay and lesbian community, but at the time, they were both still in the closet, since athletes and entertainers faced a backlash if they revealed their homosexuality.  By 1968, King realized that she was interested in women, and in 1971, King began an intimate relationship with her secretary, Marilyn Barnett.  King avoided the subject as best she could, but she was forced to come out in 1981 when her former lover sued her for palimony.  King was married to a man up until her outing, and Elton was married to a woman from 1984-1988.

Billie Jean was married to Larry King from 1965–87, and they were part of a group that founded the World TeamTennis (WTT) in 1974.  King served as the player-coach of the Philadelphia Freedoms, thus becoming one of the first women to coach professional male athletes.  The WTT folded after 1978 because of financial losses, but King revived the competition in 1981.  In that same year King admitted to having had a homosexual affair with her former secretary, who was suing King for material support.  Her secretary lost the lawsuit, but this made King the most prominent female athlete to have come out as a lesbian at that time, which resulted in her losing all her endorsement contracts at the time.  After her divorce from Larry King, she publicly embraced her homosexuality and became an advocate for gay rights.

Gave me peace of mind my daddy never had
Oh, Philadelphia freedom
Shine on me
I love you
Shine a light

11 thoughts on “Thursday Inspiration #146 Philadelphia Freedom

  1. We have come a long way from criminalizing the LGBT community to having accepted in good faith. Certainly we have a long way to go, but at least we are on the right track I do hope.

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