Elton John is one of the most famous musicians of his time, however, he doesn’t write the lyrics to his music. Why? During an interview, he opened up about why he doesn’t think doing so would be “worth it.” He also revealed what makes his musical partnership with lyricist Bernie Taupin different from John Lennon’s partnership with Paul McCartney.
Elton John said he only wrote something he really liked once
Firstly, a little background. John gave the world so many classic songs, from “Your Song” to “Daniel” to “Candle in the Wind” to “I’m Still Standing.” None of these tracks have lyrics by John himself. Many of his hits actually have lyrics by Bernie Taupin. So why did John not write the lyrics of his own music?
“I don’t really want to,” he told GQ. “The only time I’ve ever written down anything that I’m really proud of was when I was in treatment and I had to write a farewell letter to cocaine. And people may see that as a sign of weakness, but if I really wrote what I felt my career would probably be over because I’d have a go at everybody, because I’d write, “C***, c***.” [Laughs] It’s just not worth it.”
So has John ever had any input in Taupin’s songwriting? “I’ve suggested titles in the past, and I wanted him to write a song about Matthew Shepard [a gay student beaten to death in a Wyoming bar in 1998], and he did,” John revealed. “But I never say, ‘I want you to do this, and I want you to do that,’ because I’d be stepping on his toes. We just have that kind of relationship where we don’t see each other very often.”
Why Elton John said his songwriting partnership with Bernie Taupin is different than John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s
In addition, John opined a lot of songwriting partnerships are more hands-on but they fail because egos clash. John said the songwriting partnership of John Lennon and Paul McCartney ended because of ego clashes, as did the songwriting partnership of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. It’s interesting to think John-Taupin is as revered a partnership as Lennon-McCartney and Bacharach-David even though they have a very different approach to songwriting.
How his music performed commercially
So did refusing to write his own lyrics hurt John commercially? 57 of John’s songs reached the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 — nine of which reached No. 1. John is simply the most successful male solo artist in the history of the chart. Interestingly, his success on Billboard is fitting because he’s been a regular reader of the magazine since the 1960s. As of 2018, he still has people send him copies of the magazine so he can look at the charts. John isn’t much of a lyricist, however, that hasn’t stopped him from becoming a legendary and successful entertainer.
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