Elton’s brand-new Greatest Hits collection, 'Diamonds', opens with 'Your Song', which has just been voted the British public’s choice on ITV’s 'Elton John: The Nation’s Favourite Song'.
Widely regarded as the track that first brought beyond-family-and friends attention to Elton John, Your Song has grown to become the most identifiable song in the writer’s catalog. It is the oldest composition in Elton’s typical set list and he has performed it live in concert more times than any other song.
The music to Your Song, beginning with a self-reflective piano melody and resolving like an autumn leaf floating lazily to the ground, was written on October 27, 1969. In about the time it takes someone to find their seat at a concert, Elton sat down and put music to Bernie Taupin’s hand-written words, coaxing them out into the world.
The original demo, which was featured on the Elton John box set To Be Continued..., was one of the songs played for orchestral arranger Paul Buckmaster when he was approached to work on what would become the Elton John album.
In November 1969, Paul was given a piano and vocal tape of some of Elton’s songs and was “very enthused” upon listening to it. Recollecting some twenty-five years later, Paul said, “I heard the potential of what I was going to write…it was the sort of thing that I was dying to have a go at.”
Paul was then asked which producer he would recommend for the LP. His reply, Gus Dudgeon, proved to be a masterful suggestion as Gus went on to produce the next 13 albums for Elton, six of which went to #1 in the United States (three in the UK).
Your Song was recorded at Trident Studios in London on January 22, 1970 and became the opening track on the Elton John album, the singer’s second LP in the UK and his debut in the United States. Thus it was the song that introduced the musician to many of his American fans, although it was not Elton's first single from the album and it had already been covered by Three Dog Night on their album It Ain’t Easy earlier in the year.
★ Elton John – Piano, Vocals
★ Frank Clark – Acoustic Guitar
★ Colin Green – Guitar
★ Clive Hicks – 12 String Guitar
★ Barry Morgan – Drums
★ Dave Richmond – Bass Guitar
★ Paul Buckmaster – Arranger
Its initial appearance on a single was as a double A-side (with Take Me To The Pilot) on Uni Records on October 26, 1970 in the US. It entered the Billboard Hot 100 a month later and peaked at #8 two months after that, spending a total of 14 weeks on the chart. It also reached #9 on the Adult Contemporary chart and currently holds Platinum status by the Recording Industry Association of America.
“I remember hearing Elton John's 'Your Song,' heard it in America – it was one of Elton's first big hits – and remember thinking, 'Great, that's the first new thing that's happened since we happened.' It was a step forward. There was something about his vocals that was an improvement on all of the English vocals until then”
In the UK, Your Song entered the UK Singles Chart on January 23, 1971, peaking at #7 on February 13 and staying on that list for 12 weeks. It was certified Gold by the British Phonographic Industry, representing the sale of over 400,000 digital downloads, on March 31, 2017.
A live version with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra was issued as a UK single in the summer of 1987 and Elton’s duet with Italian tenor Alessandro Safina peaked at #4 in Britain on July 27, 2002.
Your Song has been covered countless times by artists, including Billy Paul, Patti LaBelle, and Julian Lloyd Webber (Elton contributed to the latter two recordings). In December 2010, Ellie Goulding took her version to #2 on the UK Singles Chart, where it spent 8 weeks in the Top 10 and stayed on the chart for over seven months.
Singer Aloe Blacc used the song’s line “You can tell everybody” as the anchor to his 2014 release The Man, which reached #1 in the UK and Europe and remains the artist’s most successful single to date.
With the release of Diamonds, one version or another of Your Song has appeared on over a dozen Elton albums, including a live version on this year's vinyl-only 17-11-70+.
It was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998 and Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” in 2004 and 2010.
And through it all – across the past 47 years – it has become timeless. A classic. A standard.
And yet, somehow, it remains…
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