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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