4 Winning Songs Dedicated to Sports Teams (That Were Actually Winners)

From walk-up songs to stadium anthems like Darude’s “Sandstorm” and the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army,” popular music has become a more and more integral part of sporting events. Practically every athletic contest has music blaring from the loudspeakers, but a less common phenomenon is the creation of a popular song that was meant to honor a specific team. Here are four particularly memorable songs that were inspired by the success—or the anticipated success—of a professional team.

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1. Elton John, “Philadelphia Freedom

World Team Tennis—a professional league of tennis teams consisting of both women and men—had its inaugural season in 1974, and one of the teams was the Philadelphia Freedoms. Billie Jean King was both a player and the coach of the Freedoms, and her good friend Elton John instantly became a superfan of the team. He went beyond attending the team’s matches, actually writing an official song for the team along with his collaborator, Bernie Taupin. The Freedoms romped to a 39-5 record, the best in the league, but King was subsequently traded to the New York Sets, and the Freedoms were sold and relocated to Boston. 

“Philadelphia Freedom” was not released until February 1975, after the team had left Philadelphia, so it never got used as a team song as intended. It did, however, succeed as a hit single, topping the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks. It’s probably just as well that Taupin’s lyrics don’t include any tennis references. With its allusions to freedom and flag-waving, it was more widely associated with American patriotism and the upcoming American bicentennial than with a short-lived professional tennis team.

Initially released as a stand-alone single, “Philadelphia Freedom” was eventually included on the 40th anniversary edition of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.

2. Pieces of a Dream, “Fo-Fi-Fo

Unlike the Freedoms, the NBA’s 76ers are very much alive and well in Philadelphia. The team, however, has not won a championship since 1983. The Philadelphia-based jazz fusion group Pieces of a Dream paid tribute to the Sixers’ dominant postseason run of that year with a little help from a famous fan of the team. Renowned saxophonist Grover Washington Jr. produced and co-wrote “Fo-Fi-Fo” with Cynthia Biggs, a songwriter for the legendary Philadelphia International Records label. The song’s title is a reference to the Sixers’ championship slogan, which grew out of Hall of Fame center Moses Malone’s prediction for the team’s playoff results, “Fo-Fo-Fo”—as in three consecutive four-game series sweeps. The Sixers did drop one game to the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals, so the slogan got amended to “Fo-Fi-Fo.”

Throughout the song, “Fo-Fi-Fo” is referenced as a lucky number, and the third verse makes an explicit reference to the source of the title.

I was watching the game
Just the other day
When Moses Malone, he said to Dr. J.
He said, “Ooh, our lucky number
The number’s fo-fi-fo”

“Fo-Fi-Fo” would peak at No. 15 on Billboard’s Hot Soul Songs chart, and the album it appears on, Imagine This, ranks as the group’s highest-charting entry on the Billboard 200, reaching No. 90.

[RELATED: 7 Musicians You Didn’t Know Were Successful Athletes]

3. Steve Goodman, “Go Cubs Go

Goodman is best known for writing “The City of New Orleans,” which was popularized by Arlo Guthrie and covered by many others. But he also loved to write about his favorite baseball team. Three years before recording “Go Cubs Go” in 1984, Goodman released “A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request,” which casts the team’s 36-year absence from the postseason in a humorous light. Goodman wrote the more optimistic “Go Cubs Go” at the behest of WGN, the Chicago AM radio station that broadcasted the team’s games.

With “Go Cubs Go,” Goodman’s perspective on his beloved Cubbies changed dramatically. After calling them the “doormat of the National League” in “Last Request,” Goodman sings, They got the power / They got the speed / To be the best in the National League. In the 1984 regular season, that proved to be accurate, as the Cubs’ 96-65 record was the best in their league. They did not reach the World Series, though, after losing to the San Diego Padres in the National League Championship Series. Goodman died at the age of 36 after a lengthy battle with leukemia, missing the Cubs’ clinching the National League East division title by four days. However, he’ll forever be a Chicago favorite son as “Go Cubs Go” plays after every Cubs win at Wrigley Field.

4. Dropkick Murphys, “Tessie

“Tessie” has been associated with the Boston Red Sox even before they were called the Red Sox. The origins of the connection go back to 1903, when the Boston Americans beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series (or more accurately, an inter-league exhibition series that was a precursor to the modern World Series). A group of Boston fans called the Royal Rooters would sing “Tessie,” a song from the Broadway musical The Silver Slipper, to cheer on the Americans and annoy their opponents. Dropkick Murphys, a Boston-based Celtic-flavored punk band, remade the song in 2004, but re-wrote the lyrics (along with Boston Herald sportswriter Jeff Horrigan) to be about Boston Americans fans singing the song.

Dropkick Murphys recorded their version of “Tessie” in June 2004, with some help on backing vocals from three Red Sox players—Johnny Damon, Bronson Arroyo and Lenny DiNardo. They debuted the song prior to a Red Sox-Yankees game at Fenway Park a month later. The song became an anthem for the Red Sox, and it happened during a season that ended with their first World Series championship in 86 years (how’s that for meta?). The song is still played after every Red Sox home victory and is forever linked to a defining moment in the team’s history.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

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