There are songs, and then there are songs. Elton John’s Tiny Dancer falls into the second category. The number was penned by Bernie Taupin, who has frequently collaborated with John in the past. Tiny Dancer is usually everyone’s favourite Elton John track. A readers’ poll of the best Elton John songs rated Tiny Dancer on the number one spot. No surprises there.
The song was released in 1971 as part of the album, Madman Across the Water. Tiny Dancer is instantly hummable and is one of those rare tracks which upon hearing for the first time makes you wonder of a time where you might have heard of it before. It has the warmth, but it’s also breezy. Basically, Tiny Dancer is like a hug on a cold night. But the lyrics are slightly difficult to comprehend, and it’s often been misinterpreted as something that writer Taupin wrote for his first wife Maxine Feibelmann. But that wasn’t the case, as the lyricist once said in an interview.
“The biggest misconception about the song is that it was written about my first wife”, Taupin had said in an interview with the Rolling Stone. According to the writer, the track was inspired by the women he had first encountered in California in 1970. The lyricist found the women diametrically different from the kind he had seen all his life in England. The confusion that Taupin had written the song about his first wife might have been a result of the fact that he had dedicated Tiny Dancer to her.
The vocals of John and the powerful music make you want to constantly sing along every time the track is played anywhere, but the lyrics of Tiny Dancer are not that simple, at least on the surface of it. Take, for instance, the following stanza:
Jesus freaks out in the street
Handing tickets out for God
Turning back she just laughs
The boulevard is not that bad
Or this stanza:
Piano man he makes his stand
In the auditorium
Looking on she sings the songs
The words she knows, the tune she hums
Yes, you see images in your head of a lonely girl who has a pretty smile (Taupin’s words, not mine) and she’s someone who is fond of music. But that’s all you get from the first listen. Backed by a strong voice and brilliant music, it’s not a shocker that Tiny Dancer has remained so fresh after all these years. An official music video was released last year, which establishes Tiny Dancer as a road song, something that Richard Linklater’s 2000 classic Almost Famous had already done.