1. Today in 1976, Elton had the #1 song on the Billboard Top 200 chart for the sixth time in just four years.
Don't Go Breaking My Heart spent four weeks at #1, eight weeks in the Top 10, 15 weeks on the Top 40, and four and a half months on the Top 100. It wound up at #2 on the Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles chart for 1976 and was Elton’s last #1 release in the US until Candle In The Wind 1997.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the duet became Elton’s first #1 single in Britain on July 2 – its 4th week on the UK Singles Chart. It spent six weeks at the top and a total of 14 weeks on the chart.
2. The song was written differently from almost every other composition in the Elton John/Bernie Taupin catalogue.
Elton uncommonly came up with the title himself whilst creating the tune at Eastern Sound Studios in Toronto, Canada. He then called Bernie, who was not at the Blue Moves sessions during which this song was recorded, and asked for a lyric to go with that title.
The original lyrics Bernie wrote had very little to do with the final version – only one line (and the title) remains in the song we know today.
3. The track was recorded two days after Elton’s 29th birthday.
Elton played electric piano on the session, with band member James Newton Howard on acoustic piano, Elton’s usual instrument. Other band members included Caleb Quaye (guitar), Davey Johnstone (guitar), Kenny Passarelli (bass), Roger Pope (drums), and Ray Cooper (percussion).
Kiki’s vocals were tracked later in London, using as a guide the demo tape that had Elton singing her lines in a higher voice than his own part.
4. There are three uncredited backing vocalists on the hit single.
Cindy (now Cidny) Bullens, Ken Gold, and Jon Joyce, the backing vocalists on Elton’s 1976 tour, recorded their background parts to Don't Go Breaking My Heart in London, in May 1976 after Kiki’s vocal had been done. They can be heard, along with Elton and Kiki, on the “Woo-hoo”, “Nobody knows it”, “Don’t go breakin’ my...” and other backing parts.
5. ‘Don't Go Breaking My Heart’ was the 143rd song producer Gus Dudgeon worked on with Elton between 1970 and 1976 (roughly 24 songs per year).
After finishing on Elton and the band’s parts, Gus returned to London to record Kiki’s vocal. “I worked hard to make [my vocal] happen,” Kiki recalled. “But I think I probably felt quite comfortable because I’d already done I’ve Got The Music In Me with Gus – and that was a hard vocal for me to get. So, we had trust with each other. And that’s hugely important, I think, because confidence is everything in the studio.”
6. The song was not part of any album at the time of its release.
Don't Go Breaking My Heart was Elton’s third stand-alone single, after Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (1974) and Philadelphia Freedom (1975), and later appeared on Elton John’s Greatest Hits Volume II and subsequent compilations… most recently, Diamonds (2017).
It has also been included as a bonus track on the reissued versions of Rock Of The Westies, even though it was not recorded during that album.
7. The single won Elton two awards in 1977.
Ivor Novello for “Best Pop Song” and “Best Male Vocalist” American Music Award.
8. 19 official versions of the song have been issued:
- 1976: Elton John and Kiki Dee’s original single, released on June 21 in the US and July 2 in the UK.
- 1993: Elton John and RuPaul, from the album Duets, with 13 additional remixes and dub versions by Giorgio Moroder, Serious Rope, and Roger Sanchez.
- 2000: A live version with Kiki Dee from Elton’s One Night Only album.
- 2018: Q-Tip featuring Demi Lovato covered the song on Revamp: Reimagining The Songs Of Elton John & Bernie Taupin and was that album’s pre-release single.
- 2018: Sherlock Gnomes version – PNAU built the new dance track using elements from both the Kiki Dee and RuPaul recordings.
- 2019: Rocketman Official Sound Track (Interlude) version, sung by Taron Egerton and Rachel Muldoon.
9. There have also been a handful of TV and film renditions, with assorted duet partners, after the original promo video:
- The Muppet Show with Miss Piggy (“a wonderful lady that I’ve always wanted to work and sing with”) in 1978.
- With an animated Minnie Mouse (voiced by Russi Taylor) on the Totally Minnie NBC musical television special in 1988.
- The BRIT Awards broadcast on Feb 14, 1994, with RuPaul.
- With the Spice Girls on the An Audience with Elton John ITV special, in September 1997.
- The British Comedy Awards in December 2000 with Steve Coogan (in his Alan Partridge character).
- Taron Egerton and Rachel Muldoon partially recreate the 1976 video in this year’s Rocketman film.
10. Elton has performed ‘Don't Go Breaking My Heart’ live both with and without a duet partner, including:
- May 14, 1976: According to reports, Elton surprised the audience at Baileys nightclub in Watford when he brought Kiki out on stage to perform the song almost two months before its release.
- With Kiki at Chicago Stadium, and other scattered shows during the 1976 Louder Than Concorde tour, including the final run of seven shows at Madison Square Garden.
- A solo version at the Edinburgh Playhouse on Sept 17, 1976.
- With Kiki at Live Aid on July 13, 1985.
- At the One Night Only concerts in Wilkes-Barre, PA (without Kiki) and New York City (with Kiki) in October 2000.
- At the Stonewall Equality Show on July 2, 2006 with Kiki at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
- With Demi Lovato at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles on January 13, 2016.
- On February 4, 2016, as part of a medley while donating a piano to the Kings Cross St Pancras station.
- Also… Elton was a surprise guest on the song during at least three Kiki Dee concerts in the mid-1970s and at two Ed Sheeran shows in 2015.
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