Perhaps one of the sweetest love ballads of all times, Elton John’s “Your Song” speaks right to the heart of the listener. It’s made its mark among the oldies with its hauntingly beautiful melody, yet simple lyrics. Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2021, it is no surprise that “Your Song” is considered Elton’s greatest hit of all time and the one that launched his name to fame.
“Your Song” was recorded as the B-Side to “Take Me to the Pilot” and released on October 26, 1970, as a part of his second and Grammy-nominated self-titled album. The album was not intended to launch Elton’s career – rather it was a collection of brushed up demos that Elton wanted other artists to consider recording.
The song was co-written by Elton and his to-be longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin. In fact, “Your Song” was first recorded and released by the American rock band Three Dog Night in 1970, on their album ‘It Ain’t Easy’. Elton, just starting out his musical career at the time, was an opening act for the band. The band however did not release the song as a single as was first intended and allowed young Elton to record his own version. So, it was indeed an unanticipated success when “Your Song” became Elton’s breakthrough single. It was also a clear demonstration of his musical genius and greatness to come.
“Your Song” is one of the first of many collaborations between Elton and Bernie Taupin. The lyrics were penned by Bernie while the melody was composed by Elton. The song was written in 1967, when the two first became acquainted through their record company. Eventually, they moved into Elton’s parents’ home. Bernie recalled how inspiration stuck him and the song was written:
“The original lyric was written very rapidly on the kitchen table of Elton’s mother’s apartment in Northwood Hills in the suburbs of London, if I recall, on a particularly grubby piece of exercise paper.”
Despite their longstanding friendship, Elton always maintained that Bernie had never revealed the identity of the person it was written for:
“I always thought ‘Your Song’ was written about one of his girlfriends, and when I asked him that, he just said, ‘No it wasn’t!’ He gets fairly defensive.”
The lyrics of “Your Song” is distinguished for their simplistic sentiments of ideal and childish love. Another reason why the ballad remains a fan favourite is that the lyrics make no reference to a specific gender – a characteristic that had made it timeless. Bernie believed this to be a part of the song’s charm;
“It’s like the perennial ballad ‘Your Song,’ which has got to be one of the most naive and childish lyrics in the entire repertoire of music, but I think the reason it still stands up is because it was real at the time. That was exactly what I was feeling. I was 17 or 18 years old and it was coming from someone whose outlook on love or experience with love was totally new and naive”
Over the span of 50 years, “Your Song” has passed many milestones. By January 1971, the song peaked at #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #7 on UK Singles Chart, was inducted to the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1988, and placed at #202 on the Rolling Stone’s The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list redone in 2021. In April 2018, RIAA certified “Your Song” to be 2x Platinum for sales of two million digital copies and in July 2021, BPI certified it to be 2x Platinum for selling over a million digital downloads.
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Elton John “Your Song” Lyrics Review and Song Meaning
If you close your eyes you can imagine a lover sweetly and shyly whispering these words to you. The gentle but sweet overture reminds you of the pangs of first love.
“It’s a little bit funny, this feelin’ inside
I’m not one of those who can easily hide”
It is obvious that the words came out from a very young Bernie who was inexperienced in love. The lyrics themselves sound almost as if he’s having a conversation with his beloved. From the outset the simple lyrics are gripping. They put into words exactly how you feel when you experience your first love – the feeling of butterflies in your stomach or how you can’t hide your affection and attraction.
Then we catch a glimpse of the poor boy Bernie would have been before he rose to fame alongside Elton. The hopes and dreams of two young men come out with “I don’t have much money, but boy, if I did/ I’d buy a big house where we both could live”. In fact, it is perhaps a reference to the fact that they were residing in Elton’s parents’ home as neither had the money to afford a place of their own.
And so the overture continues.
“If I was a sculptor, but then again, no
Or a man who makes potions in a travelin’ show”
Here we see the romanticism and idealism of young love. The song brings to mind a scene from a movie. The secret fantasies of a young man that has never experienced love before. So, he wants to make a grand gesture of love – like sculpting a masterpiece or maybe brewing a potion to impress his beloved. However, Bernie is nothing but realistic. He knows that he is a man of simple means and instead says; “Oh, I know it’s not much, but it’s the best I can do / My gift is my song and this one’s for you”. And so he puts his feelings into song and makes a humble gift of it. This is one of the most poignant lyrics in the song, as many would find themselves echoing Bernie’s sentiment voiced by Elton.
“And you can tell everybody this is your song
It may be quite simple but now that it’s done”
We have now come to the title of the song itself!
The song meant as a gift for a lover needs no name or title. It will simply be “Your Song” as Bernie puts it – which inevitably suits the simplicity of it. And it goes to add, the song may be simple, but you can declare to the world that this was meant for you and you alone. But then the shy young lover re-emerges as Elton sings on. The repetition of “I hope you don’t mind / I hope you don’t mind” shows that the lover is uncertain as to how the song would be received by his beloved. Yet he can’t help but put his feelings into words. Ultimately what he wants to do is to say how the entire world has become something brand new as he had fallen in love – “How wonderful life is while you’re in the world”.
“I sat on the roof and kicked off the moss
Well, a few of the verses, well, they’ve got me quite cross”
Yet again we see Bernie’s voice coming out clearly – the song was scribbled on a piece of coffee-stained exercise paper while Elton and he were having breakfast on the rooftop. The lyrics are certainly a subtle nod to that morning. We can then feel the frustration of the lover who wants to get this song to be perfect. Like Bernie himself at the time, we can imagine the lover crossing out one line and writing another in its place until everything is as exactly as he wants it to be. It was no doubt a long process! But he wants his beloved to know that the song was meant for “people like you”. And so even the sunlight that fell on the rooftop wasn’t too harsh. It was “quite kind while I wrote this song”. Once more, we’re reminded of the innocence of young love.
“You see, I’ve forgotten if they’re green or they’re blue
Anyway, the thing is, what I really mean
Yours are the sweetest eyes I’ve ever seen”
These lines convey a lot more than they actually seem to. For a moment we’re surprised. How can a lover forget the colour of his beloved’s eyes? It is at this point that we’re reminded that Bernie is the same lyrical genius that collaborated with another of Elton’s greatest hits of all time “Sacrifice” – which describes the pain of adult love – a song that stands in stark contrast to “Your Song”. The same genius is clearly in the making at this point.
Bernie seems to brush off the fact that the lover had forgotten the colour of his beloved’s eyes. Not because he has not seen those eyes before, but rather because he’s blinded by first love. The lover only knows one thing – that he has seen the most beautiful pair of eyes in the world. So, he’s drowning in them to the extent that it hardly matters what colour those eyes are.
It is small details like this that makes this song close to our hearts.
The song is made versatile by being just “Your Song”. It can be sung to a lover, a friend, or even a child. And as many comment, the lyrics are something that anyone could come up with. So it can be said that it was Elton’s melody and voice that has truly made “Your Song” a timeless hit.
Let us hear what you think about the song in the comments below. Check out the complete lyrics on Genius.