This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #375: Tiny Dancer by Sir Elton John.
Sir Elton John was born as Reginald Dwight in 1947. As “Reggie”, he grew up listening to his parent’s records that included Elvis, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis. He was always drawn to piano players but, more than that, to performers who matched their skill at playing with style and panache. Not surprisingly, his early role model was Little Richard. Reggie spent his teens playing in bands that made their own original music or else, as a backing musician to more established names such as Long John Baldry. One such backing band was named “Bluesology”. In that band were two friends named Elton Dean and lead vocalist, Baldry. It was because of these two men that Reggie Dwight created his new stage name, “Elton John”. *In fact, the later song, “Someone Saved My Life Tonight”, Elton John mentions someone called “Sugar Bear”……well, Sugar Bear was based on his friend, Long John Baldry.
In any case, not long after playing in “Bluesology”, Reginald Dwight met one of the most important people he was ever to know: a writer named Bernie Taupin. Both young men had answered the same ad seeking songwriters and singers. When Reggie showed up, he was handed the lyrics to songs Taupin had penned. He created music to match the lyrics and the two men were hired as a writing team. It was the beginning of a lifelong, fruitful partnership that has ended up with the creation of some of most memorable songs of all time such as, “Daniel”, “Your Song”, “Someone Saved My Life Tonight”, “Crocodile Rock”, “Bennie and the Jets” and so many more. Even though Elton John gets most of the recognition for such a stellar career, the fact is that he and Taupin have been equal partners in the very same way that McCartney and Lennon were partners and the same way that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were a team.
The song, “Tiny Dancer” came from an album called, “Madman Across the Water” and is, ostensibly, about Taupin’s wife, Maxine Feibleman who actually was “the seamstress for the band”, helping to keep Elton John’s many elaborate costumes in a good state of repair. For me, one of the things I really like about “Tiny Dancer” is that is shows how he and Taupin created moods and stories with deeper meanings. “Tiny Dancer” is six and a half minutes long. You don’t often hear songs of that length anymore. Everything today is short and often the structure is a verse or two with a chorus that repeats multiple times to fill up the space. “Tiny Dancer”, at six and a half minutes, has plenty of time to dig a little deeper and create an atmosphere that luxuriates in its storytelling narrative. It is a novel masquerading as a song.
Because of the richness of the lyrics and musical arrangement, “Tiny Dancer” was a hit when it was released. But, it received a further boost into our cultural consciousness when it was used so well in the movie, “Almost Famous” to describe what life in a rock n’ roll band on tour is really like. Furthermore, the career of Sir Elton John was the subject of a competition at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. In this contest, filmmakers were challenged to create an original, live-action short film based upon one of his hit songs. The winning entry was based upon “Tiny Dancer” and is phenomenal! I will post both, the “Almost Famous” movie scene and the Cannes Film Festival winning entry, below.
Sir Elton John has sold hundreds of millions of albums in a career that is still going on today. He has been inducted into The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame as a performer and, along with Taupin, in the Song category. He was knighted by the Queen of England for his continued contributions to English culture. He has created a musical catalogue containing some of the most-loved and influential songs of our time. We have not heard the last of him in this countdown list, either. For today, please enjoy one of my favourite Elton John songs, “Tiny Dancer”. Just a man and his piano and six and a half minutes of pure magic.
The link to the video for “Tiny Dancer”by Sir Elton John, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Sir Elton John, can be found here.
The link to the movie scene from “Almost Famous” that contains the song, Tiny Dancer”, can be found here.
The link to the award-winning, Cannes Film Festival video for “Tiny Dancer” by Sir Elton John, can be found here.
Thanks, as always, to KEXP, for helping to inspire the writing of this post. The link to their website can be found here.