Elton John Takes Us Through the Creative Process of His Early Hit “Tiny Dancer” (1970)

We all have our favorites from Elton John’s vast cat­a­log, and I’ll admit that 1970’s “Tiny Dancer” has nev­er been one of mine.

Call me crass, but I tend to get it con­fused with 1973’s “Can­dle in the Wind,” which John retooled so swift­ly for Princess Diana’s 1997 funer­al.

But then Sir Elton—or “Reg” as close friends and long-time lyri­cist Bernie Taupin call the artist for­mer­ly known as Regi­nald Ken­neth Dwight—has always had a knack for work­ing quick­ly, as Taupin explains above.

I’d nev­er been curi­ous enough to inves­ti­gate, but assumed, cor­rect­ly, that the lyric “seam­stress for the band” referred to an actu­al per­son.

John actu­al­ly seems a bit blasé, explain­ing that it’s about Taupin’s then girl­friend and even­tu­al first wife, Max­ine Feibel­man, whom I must thank for inad­ver­tent­ly sup­ply­ing the title of my favorite track, “The Bitch is Back,” which was her code phrase for “Elton’s in a mood.”

As per Sir Elton, “Tiny Dancer”’s lyrics informed the sound, which is more bal­le­ri­na than pirate smile.

And while the orig­i­nal lin­er notes’ ded­i­ca­tion sug­gests that “Tiny Dancer” is indeed a trib­ute to Feibel­man, three wives lat­er, Taupin revised things a bit, telling author Gavin Edwards:

We came to Cal­i­for­nia in the fall of 1970, and sun­shine radi­at­ed from the pop­u­lace. I was try­ing to cap­ture the spir­it of that time, encap­su­lat­ed by the women we met—especially at the clothes stores up and down the Strip in L.A. They were free spir­its, sexy in hiphug­gers and lacy blous­es, and very ethe­re­al, the way they moved. So dif­fer­ent from what I’d been used to in Eng­land. And they all want­ed to sew patch­es on your jeans. They’d moth­er you and sleep with you—it was the per­fect Oedi­pal com­plex.

Writer-direc­tor Cameron Crowe must’ve absorbed that mes­sage, to go by his mem­o­rable use of the song in Almost Famous’ tour bus scene,

Those com­mu­nal good vibes per­me­ate direc­tor Max Weiland’s win­ning entry in a recent John-spon­sored con­test on The Cut, which, like the open­ing scene of La La Land, gets a lot of mileage from LA’s rep­u­ta­tion for traf­fic jams.

Can tick­et buy­ers expect to find the song fea­tured promi­nent­ly in the just released John biopic, Rock­et­man?


(Just kid­ding. Why else would John and his Rock­et­man dop­pel­gänger, actor Taron Egerton choose that one for a duet at John’s annu­al Oscar par­ty?)

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A New Christ­mas Com­mer­cial Takes You on a Sen­ti­men­tal Jour­ney Through Elton John’s Rich Musi­cal Life

Elton John Sings His Clas­sic Hit ‘Your Song’ Through the Years

Elton John Proves He Can Turn any Text into a Song: Watch Him Impro­vise with Lines from Hen­rik Ibsen’s Play, Peer Gynt

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Join her in New York City this June for the next install­ment of her book-based vari­ety show, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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  • Jib says:

    I would­n’t call you crass for con­fus­ing it with “Can­dle in the Wind” — but instead rather stu­pid. Seems like you know very lit­tle about Elton, as evi­denced through­out the piece…next time just step away from the key­board.

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