Elton John has been one of the most successful recording artists to ever come out of the U.K. He is known for his flamboyant costumes and outrageously big sunglasses, but nothing he wears can outshine his terrific voice and his ability to compose great music. While Elton has numerous successes on the U.S. charts, there are ten of his songs that really stick out for their significance to his career.
“Your Song” was released in 1970 on John’s self-titled album. This was one of the first songs John co-wrote with Bernie Taupin, his writing partner, when Taupin was only 17. It reached number 8 on the U.S. charts.
In 1972, space exploration was extremely popular, especially with a man landing on the moon just a few years prior. This prompted the Taupin and John writing team to come up with “Rocketman”. Over the years, this song has been used commercially many times. It’s been used for an AT&T advertisement. In the hit cartoon series “Family Guy”, Stewie performs a spoken version of the song. Also, it is often used as background music for highlight reels featuring pitcher Roger Clemens who is aptly nicknamed “The Rocket.”
Also in 1972, John released his “Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player” album. On this album was hit number one hit “Crocodile Rock.” Later, the song was remade by the Baha Men for the late Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin’s movie.
From that same “Don’t Shoot Me” record came “Daniel”. The song’s original last verse was cut because the song was too long. This was one of many songs that came from a two-day writing marathon effort from John and Taupin in which they wrote an amazing 12 songs.
The 1973 “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” album brought Elton multiple hits. The first was “Bennie and the Jets” which rose to number one on the U.S. charts. Elton actually performed this song on “Soul Train” and became one of the few white performers to play on the show at that time.
The “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” album also contained the hit “Candle in the Wind” which climbed the charts to number 6. Originally, this song was written as a tribute to Marilyn Monroe and it’s about a great person whose life ends prematurely. Later in his career, John would perform and dedicate this song to Princess Diana and also Ryan White, a young AIDS patient.
The 1974 “Caribou” album introduced the world to Elton’s “The Bitch is Back”. Taupin, John’s writing partner, wrote this song when Elton was in a particularly bad mood, hence the title. A great deal of radio stations refused to play the song because it had the word “bitch” in it. However, some played edited versions that took out the word “bitch” that sounded ridiculous since the word is used repetitively in the song.
“Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me” was another product of the “Caribou” album. Most people don’t know that the original version features Carl Wilson and Bruce Johnston of the Beach Boys as well as Toni Tennille of The Captain and Tennille on back up vocals. While the 70’s version reached number 2 on the U.S. charts, this song was later redone by John with fellow Brit George Michael in 1991.
To me, John’s “Island Girl” is the one song that most of his fans forget. However, this 1975 song released on the “Rock of the Westies” record did reach number one on the U.S. charts. The songs lyrics are clearly about a Jamaican prostitute selling her wares.
Elton’s most recent super-success was “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”. The song was featured in the Disney movie “The Lion King” and released on the soundtrack of the same name. Elton composed the music for this hit, Tim Rice wrote the lyrics. Coincidentally, both writers have been knighted by British royalty. The soundtrack went on to sell over 10 million copies while the song won the Grammy for Best Male Pop Vocal and the Oscar for best Original Song.
Amazingly enough, Elton John is still writing and singing great tunes to this day, making his career span over an astonishing four decades. I am sure there are many more hits to come from this great rock legend.