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Happy Birthday, Elton! Dua Lipa, Garth Brooks, Billy Joel and More Than 40 Artists Reveal Their Favorite Elton John Songs

Written by on 26 March 2022

Sting, Sheryl Crow, Annie Lennox, Brandi Carlile, Jimmy Buffett, Keith Urban and Lionel Richie and many more also weigh in with their selections.

Today, Elton John turns 75. For more than 50 years — two-thirds of his life — the Rocket Man has provided fans with the soundtrack of their lives. That includes his fellow artists.

As one of the most successful, creative and influential artists of the pop era, John’s charted 58 songs in the Billboard Hot 100’s top 40, making him the top male solo artist on Billboard‘s list of the 125 top artists of all time. He first hit the chart’s top 10 with “Your Song” in 1970 — and just this year, scored his most recent top 10 hit with “Cold Heart (PNAU Remix),” alongside Dua Lipa. He is the only artist to have placed a song in the Hot 100’s top 40 for 30 consecutive years, from 1970 through 1999.

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We’ve already counted down our own 75 favourites from Sir Elton’s extensive catalogue — but to further celebrate his birthday, more than three dozen fellow artists have joined us in the task of picking their favourite John track, along with their explanations as to why. Their selections span the decades and different John eras — but to paraphrase that first top 10 hits, all artists interviewed agree about how wonderful life is while John’s in the world.

Olly Alexander, Years & Years: “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”

I had an Elton songbook when I was first learning to play piano and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” was the most challenging to learn because it had so many changes in the music. I fell in love with the melody and the lyrics of the song, it takes a deeply complicated feeling — saying goodbye to a part of your life— and makes it feel transcendent. Even at 12 years old I thought this song was really special and I still do.

Jimmie Allen: “Your Song”

I would say “Your Song” because that was his first hit song. There’s something so pure, new and exciting about it – it was Elton before he became Elton. I love artists at their beginning. Their first hit is the accumulation of everything they’ve been through, everything they’ve struggled against.

Ingrid Andress: “Bennie and The Jets”

I love so many of Elton’s songs, but “Bennie and The Jets” is a favourite for both me and my mom. She absolutely loses her s–t every time it comes on. Like full dance moves and everything. So naturally, I also lose my s–t when I hear it.

Anna Sofia, “Honky Cat”

I mean I love every single Elton song is my favourite but “Honky Cat” holds such a special place in my heart. My dad has a white 1968 Mercedes Pagoda Convertible and I originally lived in a more rural part of Ontario, so every summer we would always go for drives in the countryside and just blast Honky Cat on repeat. WE LOVE YOU SO MUCH ELTON!”

Glen Ballard: “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word”

1975, Rocket Records, Beverly Hills, South Beverly Drive.
Bernie upstairs is writing lyrics. Elton on a white piano with a skylight in the secret room. I’m downstairs answering the phone.

Sara Bareilles: “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”

This song is a masterpiece. The musical path it takes is both somehow immediately familiar and completely unexpected and made my mind wander into all kinds of fantastic spaces as a kid, and still does. I played it for Sir Elton himself, and it felt like reaching the Emerald City.

Rebecca Black, “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” with RuPaul

The “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” duet with RuPaul is one of my favourites because it is truly a queer crossover that isn’t talked about enough for the level of iconic that is, especially considering how stigmatized the queer liberation movement still was in the early 90s.”

Garth Brooks: “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me”

[It] starts in your face and just gets bigger… it’s ROYAL if that makes any sense… My favourite thing about Elton is he has stayed true to himself and captained his ship HIS way. Let’s face it, he’s a monster talent, and his setlist is a monster setlist. That talent, that catalogue, and that confidence put him in that rare class where no one is above the other. He’s a musical genius with soul. Happy Birthday, Sir Elton.

Kix Brooks, Brooks & Dunn: “Rocket Man”
It’s a classic and sounds great.

Jimmy Buffett: “Country Comfort”

At the time Tumbleweed Connection came out, I was working for Billboard magazine as a reporter and people were sending me free albums. I’m not sure if I reviewed it or not — but I can tell you when it came out, I went, “Wait a minute,” because it’s such a country-sounding album. I went, “Is he trying to be a country artist here?” Nobody knew who he was or what was going on with “Country Comfort.” I like the pedal steel guitar on it. My thought at the time was, “Why isn’t anybody here doing this song?” or “Why isn’t it on country radio?” Of course at that time nobody was there I don’t think I could have spelt Elton John.

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[Editor’s Note: Billboard ran an unsigned review of Tumbleweed Connection in the Jan. 23, 1971 issue that noted, “John’s singing and superb piano style are reflected well in almost every tune. His rendition of ‘Country Comfort,’ which is about one year old, is the best yet.”]

Brandi Carlile: “Someone Saved My Life Tonight”

Elton is my hero. He and Bernie have saved more lives than they’ll ever know.

Rosanne Cash, “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters”

It makes my heart swell every time I hear it. It’s past and future all in one– timeless, aching, hopeful, resigned. I’ve said “good morning to the night” many times, and any song that place-checks New York City has added resonance.

Sheryl Crow: “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word”

Happy birthday, Elton John. I love you so much and you are a huge inspiration in my life — and I can safely say I would not be doing what I’m doing were if not for you. As a young girl trying to figure out who I was, your songs meant so much to me, and they still do. One of my favourite songs that you’re ever written — and there are so many — is “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word.” It still resonates for me and it’s such an amazingly true song I love it and I still play it, so happy birthday!

Neil Diamond: “Rocket Man”

Those lyrics with the arrangement and accompaniments put me in my own rocket hurtling through space. Happy Birthday, Elton!

Annie Lennox: “Rocket Man”

This glorious soulful soaring heart-string yearning anthem. What could be more sublime??!!!  It’s a full-blown spiritual experience packed into a “song!” And I’m of the generation that can claim to have heard it for the very first time!!! ( ☺️smug emoji you youngsters! 🤣) Leaves you feeling lifted right out into the dark starry universe, with the great majestic view of planet earth left far behind the tiny roads and streets and buildings and houses  – a very long way down below. Profound love and appreciation to Bernie for the magical words and Elton for the majesty!

 


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