Quite Possibly, the Greatest Song Ever Written

I don’t know what gets me more excited, watching the Eagles score a touchdown or what happens afterwards. It happens everywhere, in bars, on the street, even opposing stadiums, but at Lincoln Financial Field you can experience it the best. You start to here the boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, then everybody roars Fly Eagles Fly and then the rest of the greatest song ever written is sung by close to 70,000 people in unison. I’m getting the chills just thinking about it. “Fly Eagles Fly,” “The Eagles Fight Song,” “The Eagles Victory Song,” whatever you want to call it is the song many Eagles fans teach their children even before the “Pledge of Allegiance” or “The Star Spangled Banner”. I am guilty of that. It’s almost a rite of passage but it wasn’t always that way.

The Eagles’ Victory Song from a 1966 game program

Fight Eagles Fight

In 1956, composers Charles Borrelli and Roger Courtland wrote the original Eagles fight song.  It was titled “The Eagles’ Victory Song” and it didn’t even contain the phrase Fly Eagles Fly.  The opening lyrics to the song were Fight Eagles Fight and the song lasted for almost five minutes.  For reasons I don’t know or couldn’t find, the song was not widely used for the next eight years.

Jerry Wolman purchased the Eagles in 1963 and was looking to bring a little excitement to halftime of the Eagles games.  Growing up in the Washington D.C. area Wolman, always had fond memories of hearing the awful Redskins fight song, “Hail to the Redskins.” He wanted to bring that to Philadelphia, so he created The Philadelphia Eagles Sound of Brass Band.  He appointed Arlen Saylor to lead the band and arrange a different version of the song. Even after the song was slightly altered, Borelli and Courland still received credit.  Daniel Patrick Sheehan of the Morning Call wrote, the 200-member band featured 60 skirt-clad “Eaglettes” who performed drill and dance routines. The song “was a real showpiece,” Saylor said in a 2005 interview. “It was a dynamic piece of music. It became a trademark, a musical signature for the Eagles.”  “The Eagles’ Victory Song” was played at halftime of Eagles home games during the remainder of the 1960s but it never gained a ton of popularity and the band was disassembled in 1969.

The song fell into obscurity for the next 25+ years.

Image of Arlen Saylor Sr. via the Reading Eagle

Fly Eagles Fly

In 1996, Bobby Mansure created an innovative entertainment concept in the NFL by starting the Eagles Pep Band, an ensemble of four talented strolling musicians that captivate and charm fans with a grassroots musical performing style. Along with fellow pep band member, Brian Saunders, “The Eagles’ Victory Song” was re-written and re-born.  The new version changed the intro from Fight, Eagles Fight to Fly, Eagles Fly, the tempo was slowed down and played in a different key.  It was also shortened from five minutes to 33 seconds and ended with the spelling of the team’s name.

If you have been to an Eagles game, tailgate, or practically any Eagles event you more than likely have seen them and sang along.  To put a name to the jersey number they wear, #04 Bobby Mansure is Front man and plays Tenor Sax, #03 Brian Saunders plays Lead Saxophone, #02 Bruce Mulford plays Upright Bass, and #01 Anthony “Skull” DiMeo plays Guitar/Banjo. Ok, back to the song.

In 1997 and 1998, The Eagles Pep Band would play at tailgates and during games at Veterans Stadium.  They even started the initiative “Learn Your Fight Song” which invited fans to sing along and learn the new version of the song.

Image of The Eagles Pep Band via Facebook @eaglespepband

The Rise of a Classic

The new and improved fight song did not catch on right away. The Eagles finished 3-13 in 1998 and 5-11 in 1999. It gained a little more interest in 1999 but not enough. There were not many reasons to celebrate. Everything changed at the turn of the century. Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb, in their second year, led the Eagles to a 11-5 record and a playoff berth. This was the start of something special not only on the field but blaring out of the speakers.

Tommy Rowan of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote, in 2014, it was named one of the 10 top NFL fight songs by Billboard. Super-short and instantly memorable, ‘Fly, Eagles, Fly’ works more like a great jingle than a great fight song.  There is no other song better in the NFL.  I don’t care if I’m bias.  Who else has a fight song anyway besides us and the Redskins?  I really don’t care because they all suck anyway.  Rant over.

“Fly Eagles Fly” is not only the first set of lyrics in the song, it is a brand.  That phrase is on hats, shirts, people get tattoos, and it’s also a greeting between Eagles fans.  It’s everywhere.  With each year that passes the songs popularity grows.  Fans post videos of their kids singing the song on social media.  It’s just another thing that brings Eagles fans together.  Something that started being played as a five-minute song by a brass band, changed to something that nobody cared to sing, and ended up being the theme of the greatest group of fans in the NFL. 

Every game myself and my family watch at home, we have the song ready to play so when the Eagles score a touchdown, we sing the song and go crazy.  All of my kids know the lyrics.  Even my six-year-old granddaughter learned the lyrics when she was four.  If you bleed green, you probably know the words, but if not, now is the best time to learn.

Let me know your thoughts.  Do you have a special memory that involves the fight song?  If you have kids, when did they learn the lyrics?  Please comment below.

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