When Sir Elton John takes the stage at the Sun Dome on Friday, he will perform some of the most well-known songs of this generation. The Oracle looks at some of the best songs of Johns 50-year career.
1. The Circle of Life, 1994
Who could forget this song from the Disney film The Lion King? As Mufasa holds Simba high over Pride Rock to show him off to his kingdom, Johns powerful lyrics provide the soundtrack. Much of the films success is owed to Johns work on the soundtrack in collaboration with co-lyricist Tim Rice and composer Hans Zimmer. The Circle of Life is the kind of song to listen to when feeling nostalgic or when something significant happens in your life.
2. Candle in the Wind, 1997
There are two versions of this song. The first was written in 1973 to honor the memory of film star Marilyn Monroe, and it was reprised in 1997 as a tribute to Princess Diana. Surprisingly, the version released in 1997 was not a single merely a track on Johns Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album. But the 1997 version became a No. 1 single within hours of its release, eventually becoming one of the bestselling pop songs of all time.
3. Daniel, 1973
Daniel is John at his melancholic best. Listen to this song after a fight with a friend or receiving a poor grade on a quiz, and we dare you not to cry. Daniel, which was actually written by Johns collaboration partner Bernie Taupin and later shortened by John, went on to win a 1973 Grammy Award nomination for best male pop vocals. Daniel was written as a tribute to Vietnam veterans who were returning home after the war. Though the song is serious, Johns superior piano playing and unique vocal quality keep it from being altogether too gloomy to enjoy.
4. Bennie and the Jets, 1974
The 1974 hit became Johns second single to hit No. 1 on the Billboard pop charts, largely because of the songs unique R&B vibe. Bennie and the Jets is about a fictional band and provides social commentary that is still relevant today.
5. I Guess Thats Why They Call It the Blues, 1983
This was largely viewed as Johns comeback song when it was released in 1983. His career had been on a steady downslide, but after this song few could argue that hed lost his place as a relevant and influential figure in the world of pop music. This is a great song to listen to when youre down, but unlike Daniel, its not a song that allows for weepy self-reflection. Rather, it imparts upon the listener a kind of chin up attitude that can be very uplifting. With Stevie Wonder playing the harmonica in the background, its no surprise this song made it to No. 4 on the pop singles chart.
6. Sacrifice, 1989
This is a great song when youre in the middle of working hard for something, such a college degree. It reminds the listener that there is a price to pay to achieve goals. But thats not actually the message the song was meant to convey when it was written by John and Taupin in 1989. Sacrifice reflects the breakup of a marriage that is already doomed and not worth saving, hence the breakup being no sacrifice at all. The song is a grand, sweeping ballad that contrasted with the pop music culture of the late 1980s, which might explain why it only made it to No. 18 on the pop charts. The song has experienced resurgence in popularity as of late, with both Sinead OConnor and Karmina performing covers of this song for their respective albums.
7. Tiny Dancer, 1971
Another John/Taupin collaboration, Tiny Dancer was introduced to an entirely new generation when it was used in the soundtrack to the 2000 film Almost Famous. The song was originally released on Johns 1971 album Madman Across the Water, then again as a single in 1972. Tiny Dancer was written as a homage to the beautiful women John and Taupin met in California, and anyone who has heard this song knows how its instrumentation and lyrics combine to exemplify the California culture of the 70s. Tiny Dancer became a certified Gold single in May 2005 and earned Platinum status in August 2011.
8. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, 1973
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road demonstrates Johns incredible vocal ability as well as his versatility with songwriting. The song provides a beautiful understanding of the film The Wizard of Oz with its sweeping vocals and outstanding choral arrangements.
9. Dont Let the Sun Go Down On Me, 1974
This single from Johns 1974 album Caribou was written about overcoming rejection from someone you care about. Dont Let the Sun Go Down On Me features background vocals by The Beach Boys Carl Wilson and Bruce Johnston, as well as Capitan and Tennilles Toni Tennille. The song made it into the top ten on the pop charts in the U.S., and became popular again in 1991 when John resurrected the hit to perform it as a duet with George Michael.
10. Levon, 1971
Levon only made it to No. 24 on the Billboard Pop 100, but as they say, theres no accounting for taste. Levon was written in honor of The Bands lead singer and drummer, Levon Helms. Levon was later covered by Jon Bon Jovi, and Elton John and his Partner David Furnish named their adopted son Zachary Jackson Levon, partly because he was born on the same day as the Levon immortalized by the song. The lyrics embrace both personal emotions as well as the culture of the time, and it makes for an educational and entertaining listening experience.
Elton John performs Friday at 8 p.m. at the USF Sun Dome. Tickets are $33 to $2,091, and can be purchased at www.dometampa.com.