Does anyone remember all about Elton John's two tribute songs to the Beatles guitarist John Lennon (1940-80)? Elton's was an instrumental piece called "The Man Who Never Died" while his lyricist, Bernie Taupin, wrote "Empty Garden (Hey, Hey Johnny)."
"Empty Garden" would be the first of the two Lennon tributes to see the light of day, released in the spring of 1982 as the lead single from the Jump Up! album, his 2nd release for Geffen Records. Elton rarely performs the song live, because, according to what he says in the liner notes of the To Be Continued... box set: "I don't perform ... I performed it once on a tour, and I won't again. I find it very hard to sing. It upsets me to sing that song."
However, "The Man Who Never Died" never initially graced a proper studio album (until the 1999 remaster CD of Ice on Fire, originally released in 1985), only being released as a B-side single to "Wrap Her Up" (in the USA/Canada) and "Nikita" (UK).
Both tribute songs seem to have their fair share of borrowings from other songs: "Empty Garden" would contain snippets of lyrics from the Beatles' "Dear Prudence" ("Can't you come out to play?") while "The Man Who Never Died" sounded in places like Elton's other instrumental song, "Song for Guy" (from the 1978 album A Single Man).
Elton John on Lennon's death, from the To Be Continued... box set's liner notes:
"When John died, it really did affect me a lot. I still can't believe sometimes that he's not actually there. I was living in Paris at the time, and not going through a particularly good period in my life. I was very depressed, and I wrote an instrumental called 'The Man Who Never Died.' I really like it a lot. And Taupin wrote 'Empty Garden.' I was so impressed with mine, but when Bernie came up with the lyrics for 'Empty Garden,' I didn't think anyone would be able to say anything without being clumsy or cheesy."
"I am such a purist for old information on anything '70s and '80s."
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