Elton John’s first hit was written on a tea-stained piece of paper. It was written by lyricist and longtime Bernie Taupin collaborator at the table of John’s mother. Within the hour, John had found the melody to finish writing Your Song.
“The original lyric was written very rapidly on the kitchen table of Elton’s mother’s [house] in Northwood Hills in the suburbs of London, if I recall, on a particularly grubby piece of exercise paper,” Taupin told The Independent in 2018.
Taupin offered more details in Paul Zollo’s excellent book, Songwriters on Songwriting.
“I remember writing it as I was having breakfast — the original lyric had tea stains on it,” Taupin said. “Elton wrote it the same day. We went into the room where the piano was and just hammered it out.”
John confirmed Taupin’s recollection, adding that the lyrics gave him inspiration and a hint of fear.
“I remember writing it at my parents’ apartment in North London and Bernie giving me the lyrics,” John told Rolling Stone in 2013. “[I sat] down at the piano and looked at it, going, ‘Oh, my God, this is such a great lyric, I can’t f*** this one up’. It came out in about 20 minutes, and when I was done, I called him in and we both knew.”
Elton John- “Your Song”
Taupin was just 17 years old when he wrote it — and the lyrics really are fairly simple. But clearly, they spoke to people, as Your Song ruled the radio airwaves in 1971.
“It’s got to be one of the most naïve and childish lyrics in the entire repertoire of music,” Taupin once said, via Louder Sound. “But I think the reason it still stands up is because it was real at the time. That was exactly what I was feeling. I was 17 years old and it was coming from someone whose outlook on love or experience with love was totally new and naïve.”
How the song came about is also detailed in the 2019 musical drama movie Rocketman. And Your Song experienced a bit of a resurgence because of it.
As for who, exactly, the song was written for … well, that remains a mystery. John has said multiple times that even he doesn’t know.
“The great thing about that song is that the naivete of it is truly honest,” Taupin told Zollo. “It’s real. It’s not somebody pretending to write a song that is simple and naive.
“It is a simple, naive song. And it still stands up.”