Top 20 Elton John Songs

Elton John Performs In Berlin
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"Your Song" (1971)

Elton John Your Song
Courtesy Uni

Elton John and Bernie Taupin collaborated to write a near-perfect love song on "Your Song." The self-deprecating concept behind the song struck a chord with pop music fans around the world. It became Elton John's first top 10 pop hit in both the US and the UK. Elton John's piano playing was influenced by American session musician Leon Russell. Paul Buckmaster, who worked with David Bowie on "Space Oddity," contributed the string arrangement in the first of many collaborations with Elton John. Rod Stewart covered "Your Song" in a tribute to Elton John in 1992 and took his recording into the top 50 on the US pop chart. In 2010 Ellie Goulding climbed to #2 on the UK pop singles chart with her cover of "Your Song."

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"Tiny Dancer" (1972)

Elton John Tiny Dancer
Courtesy Uni

"Tiny Dancer" seemed a nearly forgotten part of the Elton John repertoire until it was revived for use in the film Almost Famous in 2000. It is a sweet love ballad, and in the movie, it refers to a groupie echoing the Carpenters' classic "Superstar." "Tiny Dancer" first appeared on Elton John's fourth studio album Madman Across the Water. The recording is built around Elton John's solo voice and piano, but Paul Buckmaster's string arrangement builds the song into something much more epic. "Tiny Dancer" only reached #41 on the US pop chart, but over time it has become one of Elton John's most loved classics. Ben Folds and country singer Tim McGraw have both recorded covers of "Tiny Dancer."

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"Rocket Man" (1972)

Elton John Rocket Man
Courtesy Uni

Many observers see strong correlations between Elton John's "Rocket Man" and David Bowie's "Space Oddity." However, reportedly lyricist Bernie Taupin was inspired by either seeing a shooting star or a distant airplane. Another possible inspiration is Ray Bradbury's short story "The Rocket Man." Elton John's song peaked at #6 on the US pop singles chart and went all the way to #2 in the UK. It is included on the album Honky Chateau and helped make that collection Elton John's first to reach #1 in the US. Kate Bush covered "Rocket Man" in 1991 as a tribute to Elton John and took it to #11 on the alternative songs chart in the US.

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"Crocodile Rock" (1972)

Elton John Crocodile Rock
Courtesy MCA

Elton John's first #1 pop single in the US is heavily influenced by American rock and roll of the 1950s and early 1960s. The song invents a dance craze called the "Crocodile Rock." A 1974 lawsuit alleging that "Crocodile Rock" borrowed portions of "Speedy Gonzales," a hit for Pat Boone, was settled out of court. Elton John's recording was released the year that the Broadway musical version of Grease helped kick off a wave of 1950s nostalgia in the US that would include the massive hit movie American Graffiti the following year. 

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"Daniel" (1973)

Elton John Daniel
Courtesy MCA

Despite sounding like an autobiographical song, Bernie Taupin wrote "Daniel" about a fictional character. He wrote it out of sympathy for Vietnam War veterans returning home. Additional verses spelled out the story more clearly, but the song was shortened to the wistful, beautiful song we know to keep it from being too long and somber. The song went to #2 on the pop singles chart and earned Elton John a Grammy Award nomination for Best Male Pop Vocal. "Daniel" became the first of 16 Elton John appearances at #1 on the US adult contemporary chart. "Daniel" won the UK's Ivor Novello Award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically.

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"Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting" (1973)

Elton John Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting
Courtesy MCA

"Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting" showcases the rollicking rock side of Elton John's repertoire. His piano playing is influenced by Jerry Lee Lewis. "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting" adds a glam sheen to the sound of classic rock and roll. Bernie Taupin describes it as an American rock and roll song set in the UK. The song was included on the album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and climbed to #12 on the US pop singles chart. In the UK, it performed better going all the way to #7. 

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"Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" (1973)

Elton John Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Courtesy MCA

This song features one of Elton John's most brilliant vocal performances of all time. Lyrically, it is a bitter breakup song. However, it is easy to get lost in the gorgeous, soaring arrangement and sing along with the chorus that has more than a hint of country sway. Lyricist Bernie Taupin says The Wizard Of Oz was the first movie he saw when growing up, and he uses the film's concept of "yellow brick road" to build this song. "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" spent three weeks at #2 on the pop singles chart in the US. It also reached the top 10 on the adult contemporary chart.

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"Bennie and the Jets" (1974)

Elton John Bennie and the Jets
Courtesy MCA

The fictional band depicted in "Bennie and the Jets" seems almost certainly an homage to David Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust" released only a year before. Musically, the song has a distinct R&B vibe that allowed it to cross over to #15 on the R&B chart. Elton John was invited to perform "Bennie and the Jets" on American R&B TV show Soul Train. "Bennie and the Jets" also includes fake live audience sound effects and a distinctive Elton John piano solo. The song became Elton John's second #1 pop hit single in the US.

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"Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me" (1974)

Elton John Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me
Courtesy MCA

This song is one of the most covered of Elton John's hit singles. The original Elton John recording features backing vocals from two of the Beach Boys, Carl Wilson and Bruce Johnston, and Toni Tennille of Captain and Tennille. "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me" reached #2 when first released as a single. In 1991 it went clear to #1 on the pop singles chart as a duet with George Michael. "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me" was included on Elton John's studio album Caribou, his fourth in a row to reach #1 on the US album chart. The song earned two Grammy Award nominations including for Record of the Year. 

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"Philadelphia Freedom" (1975)

Elton John Philadelphia Freedom
Courtesy MCA

Elton John and Bernie Taupin wrote "Philadelphia Freedom" in honor of tennis superstar Billie Jean King. She was a member of the tennis team the Philadelphia Freedoms. Being released just a year before bicentennial celebrations in the US, American pop fans adopted the song as a patriotic celebration. "Philadelphia Freedom" reached #1 on the US pop singles chart. The recording is heavily influenced by Philadelphia soul which Elton John would revisit a few years later when he recorded "Mama Can't Buy You Love" with legendary producer Thom Bell. "Philadelphia Freedom" was recorded and released specifically as a single at a time in which Elton John was dominating the albums chart. It did not appear on an album until the greatest hits collection released in 1977.

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"Someone Saved My Lie Tonight" (1975)

Elton John Someone Saved My Life Tonight
Courtesy MCA

"Someone Saved My Life Tonight" is surely one of the biggest pop hit singles ever that depicts the contemplation of suicide. It was included on the album Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, a concept album about the careers of Elton John and his lyricist Bernie Taupin. Elton John was engaged to marry Linda Woodrow in 1969, and he had serious doubts about the upcoming marriage leading to contemplating suicide. The "someone" in the song title and the man referred to "sugar bear" in the lyrics is legendary UK blues musician Long John Baldry. Some American radio stations objected to the two word phrase "Damn it!" in the lyrics. "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" reached #4 on the US pop singles chart.

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"Island Girl" (1975)

Elton John Island Girl
Courtesy MCA

"Island Girl" was the first single from Elton John's 1975 album Rock of the Westies, his second consecutive album to debut at #1 on the album chart. The sound of "Island Girl," in keeping with the lyrics, was influenced by Caribbean music. The B-side of the single "Sugar On the Floor" was written by Kiki Dee who would duet with Elton John the following year. "Island Girl" spent three weeks at #1 on the US pop singles chart.

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"Don't Go Breaking My Heart" with Kiki Dee (1976)

Elton John Don't Go Breaking My Heart
Courtesy MCA

Elton John and Bernie Taupin wrote, "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" under the pseudonyms Ann Orson and Carte Blanche. The song was an affectionate tribute to the Motown hits of the 1960s. Elton John originally planned to record "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" with Dusty Springfield, but the offer was withdrawn due to the UK soul legend's illness at the time. Instead, he recorded with rising UK star Kiki Dee who was signed to Elton John's Rocket record label. She had an international top 20 pop smash "I've Got the Music In Me" in 1974. Although recorded during the sessions that produced the album Blue Moves, "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" was released as a standalone single. It became Elton John's first single to reach #1 in both the US and the UK.

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"Sorry Seems To Be the Hardest Word" (1976)

Elton John Sorry Seems To Be the Hardest Word
Courtesy MCA

"Sorry Seems To Be the Hardest Word" has a distinctively sad sound compared with most Elton John pop hits. It was part of the dark-toned album Blue Moves. "Sorry Seems To Be the Hardest Word" reached #6 on the US pop singles chart but failed to reach the top 10 in the UK. The album itself was the first by Elton John to miss #1 on the US album chart since 1971's Madman Across the Water. A collaboration cover of "Sorry Seems To Be the Hardest Word" by Elton John with the British boy band Blue reached #1 on the UK pop singles chart in 2002.

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"Song For Guy" (1978)

Elton John Song For Guy
Courtesy MCA

Unknown at the time, Elton John wrote "Song For Guy" while imagining himself dying on the same day as his 17-year-old messenger boy Guy Burchett had died in a motorcycle accident. The song excludes lyrics except for the repeated line "Life isn't everything" near the end. It is Elton John's only hit song written without a collaborator. "Song For Guy" reached #4 on the UK pop singles chart and the top 40 on the adult contemporary chart in the US. 

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"Mama Can't Buy You Love" (1979)

Elton John Mama Can't Buy You Love
Courtesy MCA

In 1977 Elton John recorded with legendary Philadelphia soul producer Thom Bell who was known for work with acts such as the Stylistics and the Spinners. In a departure from his usual sessions. Elton John recorded songs written by others and appeared on the recordings without his band. Originally, a full album was planned, but the sessions did not go well, and ultimately only six songs were recorded. Three of them, including "Mama Can't Buy You Love," were released as part of the 1979 EP The Thom Bell Sessions. The remaining three songs were released in 1989 as part of The Complete Thom Bell Sessions. "Mama Can't Buy You Love" was a chart success becoming Elton John's first top 10 pop hit in the US in three years.

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"I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues" (1983)

Elton John I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues
Courtesy Geffen

By the 1980s Elton John had been written off by many as well past his prime. This song made the strong case for the status of Elton John and Bernie Taupin as one of the top pop songwriting teams of all time. Musically the song is highly nostalgic with a beautiful harmonica solo from Stevie Wonder, and the lyrics are melancholy but also comforting with words of universal identification. The song went to #4 on the pop singles chart in the US and #2 on the adult contemporary chart becoming Elton John's biggest hit in three years.

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"I'm Still Standing" (1983)

Elton John I'm Still Standing
Courtesy Geffen

Elton John became a major MTV star with the music video created to promote "I'm Still Standing." The song was included on Elton John's album Too Low For Zero and became a major international pop hit. It peaked at #12 on the US pop singles chart and went all the way to #4 in the UK. It also crossed over to both adult contemporary and rock radio.

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"Can You Feel the Love Tonight" (1994)

Elton John Can You Feel the Love Tonight
Courtesy Walt Disney

Elton John was invited to write songs for the Disney animated film The Lion King with lyricist Tim Rice. "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" was the first single released from the project. In the film, it is sung first by a team of performers. Elton John's version runs over the end titles. "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" earned both the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song. Elton John also took home the Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. The song reached #4 on the US pop singles chart becoming Elton John's biggest US pop hit in six years. It also reached the top of the adult contemporary chart.

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"Candle In the Wind" (1997)

Elton John Candle In the Wind
Courtesy Mercury

"Candle In the Wind" is now best remembered for its inclusion in Princess Diana's funeral. It was originally recorded for the album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road in 1974. The recording of a reworked version of the song for the occasion of Princess Diana's death in 1997 became the bestselling pop single of all time. However, it began as a poignant tribute to movie star Marilyn Monroe. It remains one of the most sensitive and moving meditations on stardom recorded by a pop star. 

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