A Self-Reflective Song: “Your Song” by Elton John and Bernie Taupin

Songwriters love to write songs about songs, meditating on the meaning and power of music. You can listen to my playlist Metamusic: Songs about Songs on RDIO as you read about “Your Song,” lyrics by Bernie Taupin and music by Elton John, the first of a series of posts on metamusic.

The song begins “It’s a little bit funny this feeling inside.” The feeling, of course, is love. “I don’t have much money,” John sings, “but boy if I did / I’d buy a big house where we both could live.” The songwriters, longtime collaborators, may not have had much money when they wrote the song, but it became their first pop hit and is now worth a fortune, enough to buy two or three houses.

The singer considers other gifts — a sculpture or a potion in a travelling show– but his gift is his song “and this one’s for you.” I’m sure, like me, you’d rather have the song than a potion because then you could brag about it. You could “tell everybody that this is your song.”

“I know it’s not much,” he says, “but it’s the best I can do.” The lyrics are actually quite rough, jumping  around from topic to topic, even interrupting themselves: “If I were a sculptor but then again no.”

The songwriter expresses his frustration at the hard time he had writing the song: “Well a few of the verses well they’ve got me quite cross.” Notice that the word “well” is repeated, as if the singer is singing off the cuff without bothering to revise. Another example: “So excuse me forgetting but these things I do / You see I’ve forgotten if they’re green or they’re blue /Anyway the thing is what I really mean /Yours are the sweetest eyes I’ve ever seen.” Rather than hurting the song, the roughness of the lyrics give them a spontaneity, as they are coming directly from the heart. In fact, the song was not difficult to write. Taupin whipped off the words in about ten minutes over breakfast, and John composed the music in thirty.

“It may be quite simple,” John sings, “but now that it’s done / I hope you don’t mind / I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words / How wonderful life is while you’re in the world.” I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t mind, even if the song could not have been finished when Taupin was writing the lyric “now that it’s done.” He was imagining the song as a finished product while he was still writing it, as we also see in the past tense of the following line: “But the sun’s been quite kind while I wrote this song.”

Whoever the song was for originally, we can share it. “It’s for people like you that keep it turned on,” he says, so keep it turned on.

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