Merry Christmas from Elton and Ed Sheeran
Step aside, 'Step Into Christmas'...there is a new present from Elton John under the tree this year.
By John F. Higgins
Teaming up with Ed “The Elf” Sheeran, Santa Elton has just released the single Merry Christmas. Wrapped in the embrace of heartwarming lyrics, numerous sleigh bells, and caroling background singers, the song is so full of yuletide spirit one can almost hear the sound of falling snow.
Produced by Steve Mac, who collaborated with Ed on his #1 singles Shape Of You and Shivers, the mistletoe-tapper was written by Elton and Ed, starting on Christmas Day, 2020, after the two singer-songwriters spoke on the phone (ES says that EJ calls him regularly). Elton suggested they put out a holiday single together and a few months later they wrote three songs, eventually selecting Merry Christmas as the one to release.
“[Ed] reminds me of me when I first started out; his enthusiasm and his love.”
Although Elton and Ed have a strong bond and history, this is the first time they have actually recorded a song together. Ed was once signed to Elton’s Rocket Music management company and the pianist has long championed his musical protégé.
Elton and Ed have performed together four times so far. Elton supported Ed on his appearance at the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards in 2013, serving as his accompanist on The A Team. The budding star’s inclusion on the telecast was contingent on Elton appearing with him, a stipulation to which the pianist readily agreed.
The following year, Ed was the special musical act at the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) Academy Awards Viewing Party, during which the pair duetted on Candle In The Wind, a song that Ed has released twice: in 2014 and 2018.
Elton has been the surprise guest at two Ed Sheeran concerts: July 10, 2015, at Wembley Stadium and on December 9 of the same year at Allianz Stadium in Sydney, Australia. At each show, they performed Elton’s Don't Go Breaking My Heart, a song that, for obvious reasons, Elton rarely offers in concert, and Ed’s Afire Love. The Wembley appearance is included on Ed’s Jumpers For Goalposts DVD, released in November 2015.
Ed was the special musical guest once again at an EJAF event: the Argento Ball at Elton’s Woodside Art Gallery on June 27, 2018. This time, Elton did not perform.
“@eltonjohn is so close to knocking me off the #1 spot in the U.K. It will be his first number one in almost twenty years and I really want it to happen.”
Elton and Ed converse
Cold Heart (PNAU remix) with Dua Lipa overtook Shivers as the top song in the UK on October 21, giving Elton his 8th #1 single in his home country, and his first since Tupac Shakur’s Ghetto Gospel, which sampled Indian Sunset, in 2005. A dance mix of Elton’s 1979 song Are You Ready For Love had topped the charts just two years prior.
This will be Elton’s seventh song with the word “Christmas” in the title, although it must be noted that not all of them are full of holiday cheer.
In 1973, he released Step Into Christmas as a stand-alone single, with the lighthearted Ho, Ho, Ho (Who'd Be A Turkey At Christmas) as the b-side. It has, over the years, become Elton’s most-often charted song in the UK, appearing on the singles tally a total of 12 separate times to date, marking its highest peak position at #8 in both 2020 and 2021.
Elton’s 1983 album, Too Low For Zero, begins with the song Cold As Christmas (In The Middle of the Year), a husband’s lament over what has become a “marriage minus heart”.
1999 saw Elton and Rosie O’Donnell duet on White Christmas, which appears on the talk show host’s album A Rosie Christmas. Elton had previously performed an up-tempo rendition of the Irving Berlin classic as the finale of his December 24, 1974, show at the Hammersmith Odeon, with Rod Stewart and Gary Glitter joining on backing vocals whilst the ecstatic audience was buried under a blizzard of fake snow.
Elton and Lee Hall's Merry Christmas, Maggie Thatcher, an acerbic stomper from Billy Elliot the Musical, was included on the show’s Original Cast Recording and Elton's demo version subsequentially appeared on the 2005 reissue of Peachtree Road.
Later that year, Calling It Christmas, with Joss Stone, appeared as a new John/Taupin offering on the compilation Elton John's Christmas Party.
'Merry Christmas' track info
★ Written by Ed Sheeran and Elton John
★ Produced by Steve Mac
★ Vocals: Ed Sheeran and Elton John
★ Piano: Elton John
★ Guitars: Ed Sheeran and John Parricelli
★ Keyboards and Bass: Steve Mac
★ Drums: Chris Laws
★ Background vocals: Subrina McCalla, Layla Ley and Zalika Henry for Sound Of Distinction, Nic Minns, Kevin Myers and Michael Harrison
★ Recorded at: Rokstone Studios, London