April 2011 marks the 36th anniversary of Sir Elton John’s ‘Philadelphia Freedom,’ which he wrote for World TeamTennis co-founder and Freedoms’ owner Billie Jean King, hitting #1 on the music charts. The song went to #1 on April 12, 1975. At the time, Billie Jean King was a marquee player for the Freedoms. Elton had decided to write a song for his good friend Billie Jean that would simultaneously pay tribute to Philadelphia, one of his earliest strongholds, while providing an anthem for the Freedoms that would capture the excitement and exuberance of World TeamTennis. (Listen to ‘Philadelphia Freedom’!)
Just as Billie Jean remains an integral part of the Freedoms as owner of the franchise, Elton’s ‘Philadelphia Freedom’ is still proudly played at all Freedoms home matches. His beloved team anthem is heard every night as the Freedoms starting lineup is announced as well as after each match, signaling the start of WTT’s trademark autograph sessions for kids in attendance.
Elton’s close relationship with both Billie Jean and World TeamTennis continues today through WTT Smash Hits. Each Fall, the top names in tennis rally together in a match played under WTT’s unique co-ed format to raise money for charity. In its 18-year history, WTT Smash Hits has raised more than $10 million for the Elton John Aids Foundation and local charities throughout the U.S. Indeed, from #1 hit song ‘Philadelphia Freedom’ to WTT Smash Hits, Elton and Billie Jean’s collaborations in both tennis and pop culture continue to bring inspiration and hope to millions.
(Photo credit: Camerawork USA)