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Monday, November 08, 2021

"Philadelphia" and The Cities of Brotherly & Sisterly Love

"Sometimes I think that I know 
What love's all about 
And when I see the light 
I know I'll be all right. 
Neil Young Performing "Philadelphia" 
 1994 Academy Awards Ceremony

Neil Young's song "Philadelphia" -- from the 1993 Jonathan Demme film "Philadelphia" --  received an Academy Award nomination  and Young performed the song during the Oscar ceremony in 1994.


Both Bruce Springsteen and Young were nominated for Best Song in a film for Jonathan Demme's "Philadelphia". Bruce's nominated song was the film opening "Streets of Philadelphia" and Neil's was the closing title track "Philadelphia".


Neil Young Performing "Philadelphia" @ 1994 Academy Awards Ceremony
(Background vocals by Pegi Young and Astrid Young)

The 1993 Jonathan Demme film "Philadelphia" plot involves a gay lawyer with AIDS who files a lawsuit against his law firm for wrongful termination. The AIDS-stricken lawyer, played by actor Tom Hanks, is unable to find an attorney willing to take his case, until a homophobic lawyer, played by Denzel Washington, takes his case. 


The events in the film are similar to the events in the lives of attorneys Geoffrey Bowers and Clarence Cain. Bowers was an attorney who, in 1987, sued the law firm Baker McKenzie for wrongful dismissal in one of the first AIDS discrimination cases. Cain was an attorney for Hyatt Legal Services who was fired after his employer found out he had AIDS. He sued Hyatt in 1990, and won just before his death.[8]

During the 1980's AIDS crisis, there was widespread misinformation, stereotypes, hostility and discrimination. 

Mary Steenburgen in "Philadelphia"

Mary Steenburgen, who plays the law firm’s  defense lawyer,  sat down with director Demme at the end of the day of the first day of filming and said, ‘I’m a wreck, I don’t know if I can play this part.’ And he said, ‘Mary, it’s not about AIDS. It’s about everybody in this country is entitled to justice—they’re entitled to their representation.’ And from then on, I was fine.” [Smithsonian Magazine]

Neil Young & Jonathan Demme


Reflecting on the film in 2003, director  Jonathan Demme said: "What I feel more than anything is I’m glad to see that AIDS doesn’t bear really remotely the stigma which was quite overwhelming at the time, that it did 20 years ago."

Andrew Beckett and Joe Miller
 (Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington)

The impact of the film got people talking about HIV-AIDS and served to humanize the difficult subject. Marla Gold, a former assistant city health commissioner, HIV doctor, and public health dean at Drexel University, says Philadelphia managed to do what health leaders had tried and tried to do, yet often fell short: fostering an accurate public awareness about the AIDS epidemic. []


 Tom Hanks as Andrew Beckett


Today, we reflect back on the lessons learned during the 1980's AIDS crisis about the stigma and discrimination against marginalized populations that must be tackled in order to eliminate medical prejudice and apartheid.  Thank goodness for those lessons we learned from the AIDS crisis which taught us not to fear the invisible unknown and to be kind and compassionate to those suffering.

Or did we? 

Only then can we all live  in  "The Cities of Brotherly Love."


"City of brotherly love 
Place I call home 
Don't turn your back on me 
I don't want to be alone 
Love lasts forever."

"Here's the final heart breaking scene of "Philadelphia" as it plays over the "family movies" of the characters as children. If anyone can watch that scene with this song playing over it and not be moved...well, you just don't have a heart."

Final scene of "Philadelphia"

More on Film Director Jonathan Demme and Neil Young.

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At 11/08/2021 03:49:00 PM, Blogger Richie Cruz said...

Neil really should have gotten the Oscar for Best Song. He had the better song, and it's placement in the actual film had a MUCH bigger emotional impact. It's nearly impossible to watch that scene and hear Neil in the background, and not get sad. Cuts right to the bone.

"They" never stop drooling over Springsteen, so he got the big prize, but if you ask me, Neil got burned.

At 11/08/2021 04:42:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

Yes, tend to agree on Bruce here, Richie .

Bruce seemed almost ashamed to accept award. In his acceptance speech, Springsteen acknowledged Young and said that the award really deserved to be shared by the other nominee's song [Neil's "Philadelphia"] .

At 11/08/2021 06:12:00 PM, Blogger Alan said...

I was working in the mental health system at the time and one teenager who knew I was a big Neil Young fan said, as Neil performed it live on TV, in a room full of “inmates” who were all watching, “He sounds like Kermit the Frog!” It was such a zinger of a critique, I had nothing to say.

At 11/08/2021 11:14:00 PM, Blogger Alan said...

That is a beautiful song. He’s not faking it. Deep emotion. Neil’s voice is great. The high notes he reaches would make Young Neil’s idol Roy Orbison smile.

This was an enlightened song which was important in bringing on change in our society. And in many ways, we have come a long way. But the political battles over the soul of USA continue. There goes Neil, not being a dick again. He has been very active in social causes and benefit shows, of course. Alan in Seattle

At 11/09/2021 10:08:00 AM, Blogger breezehillpete said...

Such a powerful song, it leaves me stuck in time whenever I hear it. My best friend left Liverpool, England in 1978 to work in Fort Worth, Texas and subsequently contracted AIDS and died in 1992. I get flashbacks of when we first met each other in 1972. He wasn't a fan of Neil but we shared music avidly. It was down to him that I ended up being a big Joni fan and I was responsible for his Stevie Wonder addiction! When Neil sings "I got my friends in the world" all I ever feel is the innocence and depth of our bond.

At 11/09/2021 12:53:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

I agree with Richie and then some. I never quite understood how Bruce came to the same level as Neil in any sense, songwriting, playing, depth, vision, creativity, etc. Popularity dominates our culture and then what is most popular is a criterion for what is good or worthy. This is unfortunate. Note the guy on Saturday Night Live last week. I won't or can't comment on the quality, I will offend someone. Bruce's Philadelphia song strikes me as formulaic, predictable, and finally boring. Neil's song is emotionally painful, gut-wrenching, and it turns cliches into difficult truths. Neil, however, does not get the same recognition. This might change as his song seems to be timeless, it doesn't need to movie.

At 11/09/2021 02:51:00 PM, Blogger DREman said...

R.I.P. Dean Stockwell - and when he sees the light, I know he'll be alright.

At 11/09/2021 03:29:00 PM, Blogger TopangaDaze said...

Well, if I may, I feel I have to respectfully disagree about Neil's performance on this song.
I think Neil's greatest attribute is his voice, but here, it is simply way too high and strained and buried.

Love Neil, but this is not a favorite song of mine.

"Take my advice
Don't listen to me"

At 11/09/2021 03:49:00 PM, Blogger Tomatron said...

The Muppet Movie, featuring the beloved Kermit The Frog ballad The Rainbow Connection, came out in 1979. Neil Young was certainly one of Frog’s major influences!

At 11/09/2021 04:57:00 PM, Blogger DREman said...

Look up Peter Gabriel's cover of Philadelphia, live @ Paris Bercy on YouTube, and you will see how Neil's original version is far superior in the emotion it can generate. It was never going to be on the radio or MTV, but a whole new audience became aware of Neil's music as a result of that movie ending.

At 11/09/2021 05:24:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Neil get totally robbed at the Oscars, i like Bruce, he has different type of music. But on every level, Neil’s song is/was was so much stronger, much more emotional, and just perfect in the sentiment.

I was quite upset when Neil didn’t win if i am honest. I had seen the film, and had the soundtrack, so was watching those Oscars, well versed in both the film and the music.

But no matter, its such a good song, it is a testament as one of many Neil Youngs - greatest individual moments, and a song like this lasts many lifetimes.

At 11/09/2021 11:34:00 PM, Blogger Alan said...

Kermit rocks. It ain’t easy being green. But animal is my favorite rock star from the Muppets!

At 11/09/2021 11:44:00 PM, Blogger Alan said...

Although Philadelphia has many impressive attributes it isn’t in my top 200 Neil songs, probably not even in my top 300. I don’t think I want to count all the Neil songs I love, or just like. It’s a big number.

But the song was heartfelt, and it meant something. Culturally significant.

At 11/10/2021 08:41:00 AM, Blogger Jim said...

While I like both Springsteen and Young I would have voted for Young in this case. Thought the use of Neil Young's "Expecting to Fly" in the movie "Coming Home" was equally effective. That melody for "We Never Danced" in "Made In Heaven" was another winner in my book. Since I like to read Edgar Cayce "past life" readings I fell for the 1987 independent "Made In Heaven" movie hook, line and sinker. A decade earlier I'd had breakfast with the director Alan Rudolph who was part of a Robert Altman film festival my roommate put on at UofM in Ann Arbor. Guess Neil liked the idea of "Made In Heaven" also since he wrote the title track and appeared in it as a truck driver.

It is also amazing how Culturally significant the work and words of Dr. Fauci was for both AIDS and Covid 19 decades apart. There was kind of a Springsteen vs. Young element in terms of experts. The inventor of the PCR test, Dr. Kari Mullins, simply wanted to have a half hour on national TV with Dr. Fauci to rip him apart in a debate during the AIDS crisis. Now, Dr. Robert Malone, inventor of mRNA technology that's used in the COVID vaccine, would like a half hour with him.

If you look up Fauci, Mullins and Malone it is very interesting to read the quotes by these men. Stay away from the opinion of the sponsor of the media mouthpiece and just read the quotes by each man. Mullins was one cool cat in my book and wouldn't be surprised if he wasn't a Neil Young fan, too.

Both Mullins and Malone do not hold Dr. Fauci in very high regard like the American public does. The "gain of function" research Fauci did in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and moved to Wuhan when it was banned in 2014 here in the USofA is rather telling. Dr. Baric and Dr. Fauci published their gain of function work proudly and signed their names to the work even noting where the money for the research came from with grant numbers easily traced. Fauci clearly married a common cold virus with a new bat virus via gain of function research that he funded with our tax dollars.

One of the last things the Obama administration did was to reverse the ban on gain of function research just before leaving office. Thus, a hard fought victory against it turned into a defeat. Clearly now, a defeat for the entire human race.

While the Mullins invented PCR testing goes on at a fevered pace that test lost its EUA months ago and will no longer be able to be used after 12/31/21 according to the CDC. Mullins said PCR testing should never be used by anyone for diagnosis testing but that didn't stop our man Fauci. Shortly after that announcement about PCR testing they decided to combine stats of Covid 19, Flu and Pneumonia now. The media brought to you by Pfizer isn't done with this. One wonders if the sponsor has script approval like the "soaps" of the 1960s did? So many people have been getting their medical news from Pfizer now and not their family physician.

At 11/10/2021 03:45:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ Jim - thanks for connecting the dots between the 1980's and today.

there's more to the picture than meets the eye ...

much more ...

At 11/11/2021 12:23:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

gain of function research goes on daily and all over the world, the controversy surrounds only gain of function with respect to viruses. And then there are plenty of reasons to do the research. Anyway, I don't see the evidence from good sources that Fauci is responsible for the cold virus/bat virus research...I think you might be reading from some bad sources.

At 11/11/2021 06:14:00 PM, Blogger Dan Swan said...

I remember watching the Oscars that year specifically because Neil was nominated, knowing full well that he wouldn’t win. Much like the Grammys, they pander more to mediocrity than anything else. Not to say that Bruce’s song was mediocre because it wasn’t, but Neil’s song was the better song in context to the actual film it was in. Just my opinion of course, and I have a feeling Bruce may have felt the same way. They’re both brilliant artists, and awards don’t carry much weight for either man.

Peace 🙏

At 1/04/2022 05:49:00 PM, Blogger Shonuff66 said...

anyone know why this song isn't available for purchase or on any of the music streaming services?


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