For our April Contest, we asked you to choose one song that defines you commute on SEPTA. With over 400 entries, we were absolutely blown away by the creativity and thoughtfulness of your picks! We loved them all so much, we even created a Spotify playlist. It wasn't easy, but we picked one grand prize winner and ten runner-ups. Below, read some of our favorite song choices from our winners and many fantastic honorable mentions:
Tammy: "Stay Cool" by The Roots is an essential part of a SEPTA commute mix tape. The homegrown sound, the inspirational lyrics of a confident, talented artist at the top of his game and the chill, upbeat pace keeps your mind occupied while you gather with other busy commuters as we all kick back and enjoy the ride while someone else takes the wheel. Whatever happens as the driver navigates through traffic, interpersonal exchanges, etc... it is good to listen to the lyrics as a reminder that we are all here trying to get from place to place, together, separately, trying to get done what we need to get done. We all know the drill. We all know how to act, how to share common space, how to keep to ourselves so we can all be comfortable together.
Ethan: "The Passenger" by Iggy Pop. "The Passenger" is a first person narrative about someone riding through a city they love.. Philly isn't my city or your city, it's OUR city. All of us. That's pretty great, and SEPTA is a part of it. Every time I find myself riding at the front of the first car on the MFL heading South towards Center City (which is one of the best views of Philly, by the way), this line pops in my head: "All of it is yours and mine/ So let's ride and ride and ride and ride" -Iggy Pop
Meggie: In the summer of 2013, my sister and I were both back in the Delaware County area before entering our final years of college in different cities. We spent the summer taking extra classes at a university in town, and Yuksek's "On A Train" perfectly describes our commute: "'Cause I've nothing to lose, I'm alone in a cruise...I would rather live on a train...'Cause I don't want to be here, I don't want to be seen...I would rather live on a train." Not only was the song extremely popular on Philly's alternative radio station that summer, but our moments spent "living on the train" were a welcome relief from sitting in class (where we did not want to be) or running to/from the train in 90 degree heat. Most importantly, they are my fondest memories from that summer, because time on the train was quality time spent with my sister, who I rarely got to see during the school year. Now we are both back in the Philadelphia area as young adults, and I look forward to more moments "living on the train" with her.
Sheila: My main song is Johnny Cash's 'I Been Everywhere, Man.' I've lived in Phoenixville, and taken the R5 back and for the from Paoli and Malvern to Center City, got lost in Exton; lived in Glenolden, lost in Chester, gone to Newark, take the El, ride the underground to Phill's games, concerts; from Suburban to 30th street and University city - I been everywhere on SEPTA, man!
Jefferson: "Beat Up Guitar" by The Hooters -- The closing track from the 1989 LP, _Zig Zag_, pretty much represents a combination of nostalgia and wistful sentiment for me. This band, during this pivotal decade of the 20th century, were the epitome of the "Boys from Philly" (after Hall and Oates, at least). And this song doesn't get more Philly-centric and self-referential. With the reference to "Vine Street" and not being able to "get to heaven on the Frankford El". I guess we have to count on Regional Rail or some other mode of transportation for that certain celestial trip.
Dani: "Home" by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros defines my morning commute. Typically, someone would hear this song and think it is suited for the ride home at the end of the day - but I feel differently. Philadelphia, as a city, is my home. Every morning as I ride the El from Fishtown to Center City, I listen to this song as I watch the beautiful Philly streets and scenes pass by, and Philadelphians from all backgrounds get on board. These are the people and things that make me so happy to live in the City of Brotherly Love, and I'm so grateful to feel "home" in every part of it.
Grace: I always love to listen to the epic movie scores from Lord of the Rings and Indiana Jones while riding SEPTA. I feel transported to wonderful realms and daring landscapes while I smoothly ride to work, knowing that adventure awaits when I finally get off at my destination.
JP: My travel song is Duke Ellington's “Take The A Train.” I grew up on the Chestnut Hill East line and always loved taking the train as a boy. I also grew up with a jazz musician father so I listened to jazz constantly. Now I live on the Chestnut Hill West line and use it regularly. I remember as clear as day the old tracks at Reading Terminal Station and those old sliding doors and walking down the smoky platform to the train. Looking at the old tracks and buildings and especially seeing the Philly skyline as you approach 30th St. Station is swinging even today. Maybe it wasn't SEPTA back then and the first bus and trolley I rode was PTC, it is SEPTA today and still pure jazz. Great memories and I love the present too! I've lived in many countries and I can say, SEPTA works! Just like a 16 piece jazz orchestra. I can hear those saxes every time I walk through 30th St. station and the echoing tunnels under City Hall to Broad St. and Suburban Station. Even buses winding through old neighborhoods is swinging jazz in my head.
Adun: Rufus and Chaka Khan's "Tell Me Something Good" is one of the many songs that can define my commute. I usually listen to music during my commute but I will have one ear bud in. Doing that keeps me alert but it also allows me to hear what other people are saying or doing. I may hear a group of kids talking about their plans for summer or a couple reflecting on the game they just came from. Sometimes I will hear conversations in languages I don't understand and I'll guess which country the language may be from. This may sound far from the lyrics of "Tell Me Something Good" but for me, hearing things about the various lives, cultures and people that make up this city is something good to my ears.
Carolyn: The song I chose to define my commute would be Sesame Street's “People in your Neighborhood.” A ride on a SEPTA bus will surely give you a good sample of who is in your neighborhood. I have rode SEPTA for the last 10 years and I must admit the people in my neighborhood have pleasantly surprised me. I can recall one time when I was going to take a final exam at school and talked about it to the older man sitting next to me. As he got off he tossed me a pair of rosaries and said "you got this kid!" I passed and I never forgot him either!
Kerriane: I think the song "Break Away" by Kelly Clarkson describes my commute. My favorite is when I am riding the bus on a rainy day and I look out the window and pretend like I am featured in a music video. As the chorus builds up, I pretend like I am on a bus that is taking me to an unfamiliar destination so I can start over in life. Overall, the whole experience is highly dramatic, but I really get into the song to the point where I just want to scream the lyrics even with dozens of strangers surrounding me.
Jenna: “Teardrop" by Massive Attack. This song was the definition of my ride on Regional Rail as a Temple student back in 2007. To this day, this song perfect for my ride on the El. The singer's voice is hauntingly beautiful and the music itself fits the scenery both in and out of the rail car. Philly is a city that moves and breathes on its people. Both beautiful and sometimes sad, our city has progressed, but there is still much room for growth. This song encompasses all of the feelings that Philly exudes. "
Donielle: "Window Seat by Erykah Badu. I usually drive but when I can catch the bus downtown I don't have to worry about parking, stressing out in traffic, or using all my gas. It's my time to sit still look out the window and meditate.
LeeAnn: “Downtown Train” by Rod Stewart...I ride the Lansdale/Doylestown train Monday-Friday from Pennbrook to Jefferson station and back at night. So, I'm literally on a Downtown Train every day. This was the song that immediately came to mind, no questions asked. I see the same people on the train everyday doing the ride with me, just as Rod says in the song he sees the same girl every night. Riding the train is its own little community where you get to know people without even talking most times...but you take comfort in those familiar faces on your daily train.
John: I am a big fan of all Philadelphia-based music acts. One of my favorites, when I was a teen in the late-70s and early-80s was The Hooters. And one of my favorite songs to listen to on the MFL EL from 69th St. to 34th St. is "Beat Up Guitar," with the lyric "you can't get to heaven on the Frankford EL, 'cause the Frankford EL only goes to Frankford."
Rachel: Thinking about how I get around Philly, Dr. Dog's "Heart it Races" immediately comes to mind. It's my go-to pick-me-up song that always, always puts me in a good mood, no matter how drafty the platform or crowded the bus. As someone who walks and uses SEPTA all over the city, the line "And we're slow to acknowledge the knots in our laces/Heart it races" feels like the perfect ode to the commuter. I've also lived in Philly in various neighborhoods for almost a decade and so the line, "And we go back to where we moved out to the places/Heart it races" reminds me of the feeling of passing by old apartments and old haunts. Since Dr. Dog is a Philly band, there's just a certain sense of home listening to them. Whenever I return to Philly from a weekend or even a day away, and I step out of 30th street station and see the skyline, I feel home.
Angela: If I had to name my commute, I would use "Come Away With Me" by Norah Jones. Some days the commute seems longer than others. But that song talks about a getaway for you and someone special. The lyrics actually talking about going on a bus, and going somewhere special to have good memories. When I get on a SEPTA train, or bus, it is part time for work, but also for fun...To meet up with friends, and to make memories. So "come away with me" always comes to mind.
Emilie: My name is Emilie. It's pronounced like Emily, but because it's French, you have to inflect the last syllabus. And every morning I listen to "A Rose for Emily". I hop on the BSL on my way to school thinking today will be the day - the day I won't have to listen to "A Rose for Emily" because I will finally meet him. Truth be told, I'm a hopeless romantic. When my father bumped into my mother on the UC Berkeley campus at precisely 4:12 PM on April 29, 1989, it was love at first sight. And 28 years later, here we are now. And on my way to the Walnut-Locust BSL station, I play out the same little fantasy in my head each morning: I'll be getting on the train and bump into an adorable charming stranger with the air of a young Joe Biden. He will apologize sheepishly with his great green eyes shimmering in the dull, dusty light above and then we will proceed to take the only two seats left on the train. We'll get lost in conversation and nearly miss our stops! And he will be the one. He will be the one to give me a rose. Each morning I dream that this will come true, and each morning I'm left with such disappointment! I slump down into the lingering butt-warmth of a previously occupied seat, ram my headphones into my ears, and listen on repeat "A Rose for Emily." Emily has this beautiful garden of roses and watches "while lovers come and go." And all her life she's waiting for someone to give her a rose. And all my life, I watch with my sorrowful single eyes as the world spins without me. "And as the years go by/ She will grow old and die./ The roses in her garden fade." And as the passengers enter and exit the train, not a single fellow smiles at me. Is it too much to ask to fall in love? I suppose it is. There is "not a rose for [Emilie]."
Arianna: "Philadelphia Freedom" by Elton John. I don't have a car, but SEPTA gives me the ability and freedom to travel and enjoy many areas in the great city of Philadelphia.
Eric: My current SEPTA Regional Rail rides are spent listening to “Tram #7 to Heaven” by Jens Lekman. I used to commute to the city 5 days a week for college. Now I reside in Downingtown PA but still catch the trusty R5 into Center City, for shows and friends. Downingtown is a pleasant town, but a town it is indeed. Being able to hop aboard that electrified shuttle from the suburbs to Philly stops is a truly a tram ride to heaven. Thanks SEPTA! The journey is ours. <3 Eric
Aubrey: The song that moves me is “Peace Train” by Cat Stevens! “Peace Train” is a tune that makes you wanna snap your fingers and sway your body around and smile. That's how SEPTA makes me feel after a long day in the city when I step on that 10:28PM train heading home and use that PEACEful hour (!) on the train to wind down and rest my head and thoughts. It's also nice starting my day on the 11:17AM train, listening to my favorite Septa ticket and pass collector, Kenneth W., announce each station's name with such enthusiasm and passion. Seriously what a guy! Fist bumps for Kenneth W! I commute from Whitford on the Paoli/Thorndale regional rail line four days a week for school. If I ever moved closer to the city and didn't have to commute, I would miss the commute! Maybe that is weird, but it's true. I've watched the sun rise and set on the train and both are beautiful... there's something special about being surrounded by strangers in a tiny place, all alone but together away from the rest of the world's problems for a brief moment on the peace train. <3
Sarah: I recently saw the new Beauty and the Beast movie and it only strengthened my obsession. Although a lot of the time I have my nose in a book as I ride the subway every morning to work and school, I've found myself listening to the movies opening scene song, “Belle” from Beauty and the Beast (as well as the reprise). Although we live in a large, loud city, not a small town in the middle-of-no-where France and I live much more than a provincial life, I still find it’s the perfect morning commute song. As I walk through a very crowded 30th Street Station, I image people greeting other people "bonjour, bonjour, bonjour, bonjour, bonjour!" On the subway I can just imagine the conversations taking place as there’s such a diverse amount of people. I will admit I have almost started out the lyrics to the song on more than one occasion. Luckily I caught myself every time and remembered I wasn't in the shower. Although, much like Belle in the movie, I have conquered the art of walking through an even more crowded 15th street station during rush hour while reading a book/looking at my phone and not knocking into anyone! As I'm about to graduate college I'm so happy to have my "adventure in the great wide" Philly continue!
Tiffany: In high school, I took the BSL every morning around 6:30 - 7 o'clock. In the mornings, a few people rode the trains. Alone on those quiet rides, I always had the time to listen to music. Reading the contest's description, I was thinking about happy songs I could have listened to like wheels on the bus, but that kind of song was never on repeat. Flipping through my old phone, if I could define those mornings in just a song, it would be "Make It to Me" by Sam Smith. In the lyrics of this slow, somewhat depressing song, he says that he's waiting patiently in lonely air, as if he was on the train too. From home to school, the silent train allowed me to imagine how the day could turn out. I thought about how I could raise my hand in class, talk to the boy I liked, and people I wanted to talk to. The song gave me hope that the friends I interacted with were people waiting for me at the end of the line. The only way I could get to school was on that train. I never thought about this song involving physical movement, but I was definitely a person who struggled with grades in high school and I worried about loneliness. I only hoped that when I hopped off the train, those I cared about would keep their head up and know it had stopped just for me to meet them. This song keeps me going. If I can go places, no matter how long it takes, hoping for the better will make me move.
John: In any major Cities like Philly (aka City of Brotherly Love), my song that I choose is either "Wheel In The Sky" by Journey or "Crazy Train" by Ozzy. Perpetually, commuting on subways... it’s the wheels that keeps turning - crazy metaphor.
Anita: "Never Gonna Give You Up” by Jerry Butler because no matter whether I have a car or not I will always have a relationship with SEPTA. My other song would be “Which Way to Nowhere” by the 5th Dimension because like the song I like to takes rides with no place to go. I like to find out where things are and places I've never been and just observe places.
Jared: BTO's "Takin' Care Of Business." You get up every morning from your alarm clock's warning. Take the 8:15 into the city... I hear it in my head every time. Even at 3:00PM
Megan: The song that describes my morning commute has not yet been written, but it is entitled "Broad Street Line." The song is of the EDM genre and features sounds of the subway, including the beginning of the safety message that plays over the speaker: "Attention, Septa riders." This defines my morning commute because nothing says good morning like the sounds of the subway.
Paul: “Peace Train” by Cat Stevens. Whenever I ride the subway train, amidst all the other people, I feel at peace knowing that we're all moving in the same direction. "Now I've been smiling lately; thinkin' about the good things to come.”
Colin: The song that defines my commute? "Surf Wax America" by Weezer. The catchy chorus ("You take your car to work/I'll take my board/and when you're out of fuel/I'm still afloat) reminds me how lucky I am to have a reliable provider of transportation every morning. Hey, maybe it's not as cool as riding a surfboard, but even in the WORST conditions, when my friends can't move an inch in their cars, SEPTA is right there for me with a ride. So I listen to this on my Regional Rail and Subway commutes, and it makes me smile every day.
Margaret: "Pocketful of Sunshine” by Natasha Bedingfield. And yes I really do - because I have a SEPTA Key Card!
Alex: Since I moved to the city two years ago, I've had to commute to Baltimore at least once every week. That day starts with a 5:00 am El ride to 30th St and ends many hours later. When I step out the door, nine times out of ten, Of Montreal's “Disconnect the Dots” is on – a symbol of the lunacy and willpower required to get moving so early in the morning!
Ruben: “Feeling Good” by Nina Simone. "It's a new dawn, it's a new day, it's a new life. For MEEEEEEEE..... and I'm feeling good.” SEPTA always gets me where I need to go. It sometimes provides entertainment and experiences I wouldn't have had otherwise. These make everyday new and beat sitting in traffic!
John: “Schyulkill Blues” by Plasma Prophets ... Because Philly's pretty cool but I got those Schuylkill Blues!
Noelle: The song is "Strangers" by The Kinks. Such a lovely song about the randomness of travel and the beauty in being near people you don't know and may not see again. I am not a daily SEPTA rider, I ride in inclement weather when biking isn't an option for my commute, so the serendipity of this song feels really relevant for me
Alisa: The song that reminds me of my commute is "A Thousand Miles" by Vanessa Carlton because I am always taking the train or bus to see my handsome fiance. No matter how inconvenient it may be to wait for the bus or train and then walk to see him, it's always worth the trip in the end! She sings "cause you know I'd walk a thousand miles if I could just see you tonight!" I've probably walked a thousand miles back and forth to the bus/train station in the past 2 years already.
Rich: "Got To Get You Into My Life" by The Beatles OR Earth, Wind and Fire. Either version of this upbeat song describes my relationship with SEPTA. While waiting at the Wissahickon Transportation Center, I often think to myself, "And I suddenly see you / Did I tell you I need you / Every single day of my life," when I see the Route 9 bus rolling down Ridge Avenue. Also, the first line, "I was alone / I took a ride / I didn't know what I would find there" fits as well.
Raina: Okay, so I simply cannot just give you one single song to describe my daily commute so I made a fun little play list for you that could describe septa and how everyone comes together as one to get to their destination. SEPTA has its good perks and it's bad, but in the end it will always be there and keep us united, employed , healthy or occupied you keep doing your thing SEPTA. 1) I've Been Everywhere - Johnny Cash 2) Ramblin Man - The Allman Brothers 3) Gorgeous / Grotesque - Company Of Thieves 4) Magic Carpet Ride - Steppenwolf 5) The Passenger - Iggy Pop 6) Crazy Train - Ozzy Osborne 7) Fresh Prince Of Bel Air -Will Smith 8) Don't Stand So Close to Me – The Police 9) West Philly Jawn - Post Sun Times 10) The Streets of Philadelphia - Bruce Springsteen 11) Lions - Skip Marley 12) Can't get to Heaven on the Frankford El - The American Dream
With so many entries, we were bound to have some repeats. Here are the songs we saw we saw the most of:
- The American Dream's "You Can't Get to Heaven on the Frankford El" - 12 entries
- Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train" - 11 entries
- Frankie Smith's "Double Dutch" - 5 entries
- Cat Steven's "Peace Train - 5 entries
- The Hooter's "Beat Up Guitar" - 5 entries