What Was So Special About Elton John?

Sunni's picture

Let me be clear from the outset: I am not questioning the man’s monstrous musical talent in any way by asking that question. I ask it because at some point back in the 1970s, I selected a song as my favorite Elton John song. (For those who don’t know or may have forgotten, toward the bottom of this list I provide a hint about how bad I am at choosing favorites of nearly everything.) That Elton fact having clawed its way back to my conscious brain, of course I had to listen to the song ...

And having done so, I actually was left with two questions. The first has already been revealed: what was so special about Elton John back then that I: 1) declared a favorite song; and b) stuck with that declaration for [holy hand grenades, how time does fly!] nearly 40 years? The second question is why did I choose this song?

[YouTube link]

I still like the song, particularly the imagery in the chorus. But ... isn’t it a teeny bit over the top as a breakup song? Maybe that melodrama appealed to me back then. Maybe it was my way of rebelling ... although against what, I have no idea. What would I replace it with as an EJ favorite now? Gah; I have no idea. And I haven’t kept up with his music since the early 1980s in any way, so I’m probably missing out on a lot of great songs.

Guess I’ll hold on to this one for a while longer, puzzling as it may be.

Only one favorite?

Only one favorite in 40 years, or only one Elton John favorite? That is remarkable either way. I have new "favorites" all the time, usually whenever I hear new music. And some of the classics are always wonderful, though I don't think of them particularly as "favorites."

I do think about all the wonderful music I've known, and even sang over the years, as my hearing deteriorates. I am no longer able to truly hear music as I used to, and it has nothing to do with the volume. In the last year or two, I increasingly can't distinguish one sound from another well enough to appreciate the nuances of different voice tones or musical instruments... and find I don't even try to listen nearly as often as I used to because it gets frustrating rather than enjoyable.

But I'll always have my memories. :)

I generally don’t do favorites.

Only one Elton John favorite. I have a very hard time choosing a favorite anything. It was a real frustration to the snolfs when they were younger; they’d ask me for a favorite color, or food, or place, and I’d always have to reply that I like too many to identify one as a favorite.

Do hearing aids help with the loss of differentiation you describe? That sounds like a hard thing to deal with.

Unfortunately no.

I have an unusual type of nerve damage in both cochleae, the result of inner ear infections when I was three. I have been tested for hearing aids many times, but they all simply amplify the volume of the sound, further distorting the individual components of the sound waves... which would only make comprehension/differentiation even more difficult for me.

A cochlear implant is only reasonable to consider if the hearing loss is so profound that there is no comprehension at all, and I'm not there yet - even if I could afford to have it done. When the implant is put in, ALL normal hearing in that ear is then lost, and one must learn to interpret the electrical signals to the brain quite differently... not a good trade at this point.

This is, as with so many other things, a technology ever evolving and expanding, so there is real hope for people in the future with my problems. I can only hope I live long enough to take advantage of it someday, or adapt and make the best of what I do have anyway... which is what I strive to do, of course. :)


I hope a solution comes soon enough for you to benefit from it.


I admit that I've never been a huge Elton John fan -- too much visual spectacle for my taste, I don't usually connect with the lyrics, and the music often feels overproduced (or maybe I'm just not a big fan of piano rock). However, if I had to choose any one of his (and Bernie Taupin's!) songs to listen to repeatedly, it would be "Funeral For A Friend / Love Lies Bleeding" from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. That's a pretty powerful tune.

So no Billy Joel, too?

I understand what you’re saying; he certainly was over the top a lot of the time. And if we’re going to get in to his 1970s discography, I’ll agree that your choices are up there; but so is Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me and Someone Saved My Life Tonight.

Bernie Taupin definitely deserves much of the credit, too.

Pianist Envy

Oh yes, "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" is a great song. I forgot about that one!

Perhaps the first LP I bought was "The Stranger" by Billy Joel. For a while there I thought he was the cat's meow (it helped that he was from Long Island, where I spent my first ten years). But to my ears his music hasn't worn well.

(The whole phenomenon of music not wearing well is interesting to me -- I feel the same way about a lot of Beatles music these days. On the other hand, it's also interesting that we can hear the same music over and over, yet not tire of it!)

And it's not that I don't like piano music in general, because I listen to a lot of solo piano recordings in the jazz and classical genres -- so much so that as a guitarist I like to say that I have pianist envy. But for some reason piano-based rock doesn't really hit me inside...

Wearing well ... or not.

Yes, that is an interesting phenomenon. I agree with you regarding Billy Joel; I used to adore his music (I was given The Stranger when it was first out and nearly wore it out), but now rarely listen to it. When I do, I’m usually disappointed.

I suppose some might argue that these two artists are more pop powerhouses than rockers; I don’t know about that. For Joel, I might could be persuaded, but Elton did seem a legitimate rocker back in the day.

I'll be honest, I was never

I'll be honest, I was never much of an Elton John fan. Enjoyed it enough to listen when it played, but never spent money on it. Billy Joel, I've owned several albums. One of his songs that will always tie me to both Lisa and Naomi is "She's Always a Woman". One of my personal anthems is "My Life". And more than two decades with the Manhattan skyline visible from the top of the hill makes me very fond of "Miami 2017" as wish fullfilment. Nowadays I'm more likely to listen to country than to rock -- modern country sounds a lot better than the stuff that passes for rock these days and the women in the videos look a lot better.

Ward Griffiths
Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest. Denis Diderot