♫ Daniel ♫

I was amazed last night to find two Elton John songs, ones that I like and that other people liked as well, that I had not yet played here!  I tossed a coin and decided that between the two I wanted to play this one instead of Sad Songs (Say So Much).  But never fear, for you’ll likely see that one pop up before long, too.

The lyrics were written by Bernie Taupin, Elton’s writing partner. He explained the inspiration on his web site:

“I’d seen this article in Time magazine on the Tet Offensive. And there was a sidebar next to it with a story about how many of the soldiers that were coming back from ‘Nam were these simple sort of down home country guys who were generally embarrassed by both the adulation and, depending on what part of the country you came from, the animosity that they were greeted by. For the most part, they just wanted to get back to a normal life, but found it hard, what with all the looky loos and the monkeys of war that they carried on their backs.

I just took it from there and wrote it from a younger brother’s perspective; made him disabled and wanting to get away. I made it Spain, basically, because it rhymes with plane.”

(And now I find myself humming “The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain” from the musical My Fair Lady!)

When Elton wrote the music for this song, he chopped off the last verse because he thought the song was already too long. The deleted verse explained that “Daniel” was a Vietnam vet who returned home to the farm after the war, couldn’t find peace, and decided to leave America and go to Spain. With the last verse chopped off, it became a fairly vague story of two brothers who part ways, although Bernie Taupin says that losing the verse wasn’t a big deal …

“We had that whole thing about the missing verse that everybody seems to believe explained the true meaning of the song. I think that’s just an urban legend. It didn’t really explain anything. Sure, it was cut out. But that used to happen all the time with our songs. I would often overwrite, and Elton felt it necessary to edit somewhat. But believe me, it didn’t say anything that the rest of the song didn’t say.”

The record company didn’t want to release this as a single because they thought it was too long and somber to be a hit. Elton had other ideas, and insisted they release it as a single before the album came out. The record company did, but with very little promotion. It became a hit anyway.

The song is featured on the 1973 album Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player.  According to Elton John: The Definitive Biography, here’s how the album got its title: While in Los Angeles, Elton was introduced to the legendary comedian Groucho Marx. They hit it off, but Groucho was always giving Elton a hard time about his name, insisting that he must have it backwards and really be John Elton. After Groucho refused to lay off the name thing at a party, Elton threw up his hands and said jokingly: “Don’t shoot me, I’m just the piano player.”

Bernie Taupin has told a different story, claiming that he found the phrase on a plaque at an American junk shop.

The song peaked at #1 in Canada, #2 in the U.S., and #4 in the UK … not too shabby, eh?

Daniel
Elton John

Daniel is traveling tonight on a plane
I can see the red tail lights heading for Spain
And I can see Daniel waving goodbye
Oh it looks like Daniel, must be the clouds in my eyes

They say Spain is pretty though I’ve never been
And Daniel says it’s the best place that he’s ever seen
He should know, he’s been there enough
Oh I miss Daniel, oh I miss him so much, oh

Daniel my brother you are older than me
Do you still feel the pain of the scars that won’t heal?
Your eyes have died but you see more than I
Daniel you’re a star in the face of the sky

Oh Daniel my brother you are older than me
Do you still feel the pain of the scars that won’t heal?
Your eyes have died but you see more than I
Daniel you’re a star in the face of the sky

Daniel is traveling tonight on a plane
And I can see the red tail lights heading for Spain
And I can see Daniel waving goodbye
Oh it looks like Daniel, it must be the clouds in my eyes
Oh God it looks like Daniel, must be the clouds in my eyes

Source: Musixmatch
Songwriters: Elton John / Bernie Taupin / Vladimir Cort
Daniel lyrics © Dick James Music Ltd.

19 thoughts on “♫ Daniel ♫

      • Jill, Billy Joel, a great pianist and song writer marvelled at Elton John’s musicality on the keyboard after he toured with John. He also noted how John would write music to fit the words while most folks would develop the tune first. The movie “Rocketman” gives a glimpse of his talent. Keith

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        • Billy Joel … now there’s one I haven’t given enough air time to! Yes, I read last night that Elton and Bernie would hole up in a hotel and, with Elton writing the music and Bernie putting lyrics to the tunes, sometimes churn out a dozen songs in a week. Haven’t seen Rocketman … I should add it to my tbw list!

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