Born in 1947 and knighted in 1998 for his charitable works, Sir Elton John is one of the most famous musicians of our age. Elton John Songs are the world’s favorite. Yet, his honors did not stop in the 90s, for in 2019, he became part of the Companions of Honour for his work in the music industry, advocacy, and financial help given to fight AIDs.
This LBGT pop idol has become the voice of generations, both queer and straight. So, for today, let’s take a closer look at 10 of his most well-loved smash hits. Feel free to hum along to your favorite Elton John songs as you read!
1. Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me
While now considered one of his most iconic hits, this song didn’t perform well on its initial album release in 1974. This gorgeous, soulful ballad received the accolades it deserved when he performed a duet with George Michael during a live concert in 1985.
He would later release it as a produced duet track in 1991, where it topped charts in the UK and across the pond. Now, after George Michael’s passing, it’s seen as a tribute from one pop icon to another.
2. Rocket Man
Most younger readers probably know this one from the unique parody sequence of Stewie Griffin reading the lyrics aloud a la William Shatner in Family Guy. However, it’s widely considered a signature among Elton John songs.
This melancholic tune shows a man feeling as separated and distant from his friends and lovers as an astronaut looking down from the heavens. While many eagle-eyed literary analysts are keen to point to the lyrics as a metaphor for drug abuse, the actual inspiration comes from a Ray Bradbury short story.
3. Crocodile Rock
Don’t lie: You heard the piano riff in your head as soon as we mentioned the title of this song. Either that or the catchy “la la” section.
This fun, nostalgic look at early rock-and-roll music conveys a sense of longing for days long past. It mirrors the style of 50s rock music while reminiscing on the trendy dances that the singer and a former girlfriend once danced to.
4. Can You Feel the Love Tonight
Elton John’s contributions to the musical theater industry cannot be understated. Ever since he got brought on board with Tim Rice for The Lion King, he’s had a working relationship with Broadway musical composers and the heads at Disney.
His soaring pop and piano ballad cover of this piece from the beloved animated feature has graced many a wedding since its release. When this plays over the speakers, people embrace tender moments and recall childhood memories of hearing this song in the movie or over the radio.
5. I’m Still Standing
Recently popularized by its cover in the Illumination Studios movie Sing, “I’m Still Standing” was one of Elton John’s smash hits during the MTV era. Why is that? Well, like all great artists, he knew that goofy, campy music videos would live in people’s consciousness long after serious, somber ones faded.
While it’s more well-known for its video, the song itself serves as a monument to defiance. Someone who, despite all that’s thrown against them, is still standing against the tide.
6. Candle in the Wind
No song better exemplifies the sad correlation between the music industry’s exploitation and the number of artists dead in their prime than this one.
The song’s lyrics refer explicitly to Marilyn Monroe and her tragic life before succumbing to addiction. However, the themes apply to all young artists who’ve had their lives turned upside down by the industry. All those who struggle with addiction and mental health issues, and eventually succumb.
And yet, though their candle of life is blown out all too soon, these artists endure in legend and song.
7. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
This piece from the rock songwriter often gets paired with its massive requiem of an intro, “Love Lies Bleeding/Funeral for a Friend.” The piece, in its entirety, is something that Elton John has thought of as something he’d like to hear at the end of his life.
The lyrics paint a somber and somewhat mournful image of a jaded Dorothy going back to the farm. Someone tired of the excess and abuse of the world, who’s ready to return home. The song’s often used as a closing piece, which will give it extra thematic weight when it caps off an Elton John concert for the last time.
8. Sad Songs (Say So Much)
This is one of the cheerier Elton John songs on this list. Despite its title, the beat for this piece is up-tempo. While it’s encouraging people to listen to sad, bluesy music when they already feel sad, the song itself is bouncy and fun to listen to.
9. I Guess What’s Why They Call It the Blues
This song, while attributed to Sir Elton John himself, would more rightly be given to his lyricist, Bernie Taupin, who wrote much of the piece in the dedication of his wife. The song reflects the nostalgic sadness of someone who didn’t get to spend as much time with their beloved as they should.
10. Friends Never Say Goodbye
Ah, The Road to El Dorado. While critically panned upon its release, this movie has gained new life as a cult classic. This is buoyed, in large part, by Elton John’s amazing music.
While there are many amazing songs from this movie, we decided to give this slot on the list to “Friends Never Say Goodbye” for one reason: It puts a fine point on the common urban legend that Tulio and Miguel were lovers. Or at least, that they were intended to be before executive meddling kicked in.
The harsh, bittersweet emotions expressed in the lyrics seem to suit more a jilted lover than a former friend. At least, by many listener’s reckonings.
Ready to Jam Out to More of Your Favorite Elton John Songs?
We hope that you jammed out while reading through this list of Elton John songs. If you’d like to learn more about the artist, or any of his compatriots, check out the Entertainment section of our blog for more articles like this one!