Elton John: Two of Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock & Roll

Elton John
Born: Reginald Kenneth Dwight
March 25, 1947
Pinner, Middlesex, England
Years active: 1962–present

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted Elton John in 1994. He's listed as number 3 on 'Billboard's 125 Greatest Artists of All Time." In Rolling Stones' "100 Greatest Artists of All Time," he's number 49. Their 2023 list of The 200 Greatest Singers of All Time count him at number 100

He has two songs out of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's "500 Songs That Shaped Rock & Roll," "Your Song," and "Bennie and the Jets."

Your Song

"Your Song" peaked at 8 in the US and 7 in the UK. The Grammy Hall of Fame inducted "Your Song" in 1998. In 2004, 
 Rolling Stone ranked the song number 137 on its list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time." It's sold more than 2 million copies in the States. 

"Your Song" is one of the first songs Elton John wrote with Bernie Taupin. They both answered a record company's ad. Elton John was given some of Taupin's lyrics to set to music. Soon afterward, the pair started working together. They both moved into John's parents' house. Taupin was only 17 when he penned the lyrics to "Your Song." According to Taupin:  

"I remember writing it as I was having breakfast – the original lyric had tea stains on it. Elton wrote the music the same day. We went into the room where the piano was and hammered it out."

Taupin won't say who inspired this song. In a 1989 interview with Music Connection, he stated:  

"It's like the perennial ballad, 'Your Song,' which has got to be one of the most naïve and childish lyrics in the entire music repertoire, but I think it still stands up because it was real at the time. That was exactly what I was feeling. I was 17 years old, and it came from someone whose outlook on love or experience with love was totally new and naïve."

Three Dog Night included "Your Song" in March 1970 on their third studio album, It Ain't Easy. John was an opening act for the band then and allowed them to record it. They still need to release it as a single to let John, then an upcoming artist, have a go with it.

Your Song
Three Dog Night

On April 10, 1970, three weeks after Three Dog Night released It Ain't Easy, John's self-titled second album came out. Even though "Your Song" wouldn't become an official single until October, it was clearly the LP's standout track. John made it the opening song during his legendary first performance in the States at the Troubadour. Rolling Stone called that show one of the 50 most significant concerts of the rock era. 
Tuesday night at the Troubadour was just the beginning. 
He's going to be one of rock’s biggest and most important stars.   
The Los Angeles Times August 27, 1970
Elton John at the Troubadour 1970

Elton John made his US debut at the Troubadour on August 25, 1970. The set began with "Your Song." He rolled into the "Bad Side of the Moon groove." "Border Song," "Take Me to the Pilot," and "Sixty Years On." John kicked his piano bench over, fell to his knees, and attacked these tunes with wild abandon. It was the night Elton John became a rock star:

Bennie and the Jets

"Bennie and the Jets" is the closing track on side one of Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album in 1973. The song peaked at number 1 on the US singles chart in 1974. It's John's second song listed among the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album cover

"Bennie and the Jets" is a fictional band led by a female character Elton describes as a "sci-fi rock goddess." Lead singer Bennie has electric boots and a mohair suit. The Jets are her "weird and wonderful" group. The narrator is a crazed fan talking to her friends, Candy and Ronnie, about the band. 

Comic books, movies, and the German photographer Helmut Newton influenced Bernie Taupin's lyrics. Elton wrote the music to this song as an homage to glam rock, a style defined by outrageous costumes, popular in the early '70s. Taupin told Esquire in 2011.

"'Bennie and the Jets' was almost Orwellian. It was supposed to be futuristicThey were a prototypical female rock 'n' roll band out of science fiction. Automatons."

Taupin says the Robert Palmer video for "Addicted To Love" is what he envisioned Bennie and the Jets to be: a dapper frontman backed by robotic models.

Addicted To Love
Robert Palmer

Elton's producer, Gus Dudgeon, wanted a live feel on this recording, so he mixed in crowd noise from a show Elton played in 1972 at Royal Festival Hall. He also included a series of whistles from a live concert in Vancouver, B.C., and added hand claps and various shouts. 

It was Elton's idea to stutter the vocal: "B-B-B-Bennie..." The falsetto vocal is Elton trying to sound like Frankie Valli. He was a fan of Frankie Valli And The Four Seasons growing up.

Elton didn't see it as a single and fought with MCA about releasing it. In 1974, two Detroit radio stations, one historically black WJLB, put the tune in heavy rotation. Other stations soon followed. It was issued as a single in February 1974 and hit number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also made it to number 15 on the Hot Soul Singles chart. As John tells it,

"The only reason I caved was that the song was Detroit's number one black record. And I went, 'Oh, my God, I mean, I'm a white boy from England. And I said, 'Okay, you've got it.'

Official Music Video

In May 2017, an official music video for "Bennie and the Jets" premiered at the Cannes Film Festival as a winner of the competition "Elton John: The Cut." 

Organized in partnership with AKQA, Pulse Films, and YouTube, the competition called upon independent filmmakers to submit treatments for music videos for one of three Elton John songs from the 1970s. 

"Bennie and the Jets" was designated for the choreography category. The video portrays characters as participants in a talent show auditioning for Bennie.

Bennie And The Jets

Elton John


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