Music fans, you’re in for an amazing treat.
Elton John burst onto the music scene nearly 50 years ago. Since then, the icon has blessed us with countless classics, from “Your Song,” to “Crocodile Rock,” to “Rocket Man” — but there’s one song out of the bunch that sticks out as perhaps his most powerful song ever. Only, it’s not a song you’re likely to ever hear Elton John play live.
“Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)” originally appeared on John’s 1982 album Jump Up!. It’s a gorgeous, gut-wrenching tribute to John Lennon, who had been shot and killed one and a half years earlier. Lennon and John were good friends, and when Lennon’s son Sean was born in 1975, John was even made godfather.
John is notoriously reluctant to perform “Empty Garden” live, because it brings back painful memories of Lennon’s murder. In the video below, filmed on November 5, 1999 at the Kohl Center in Madison, WI, John treats the audience to an extremely rare performance of the song. “As singers come into the new millennium, it would be churlish of me not to pay tribute to this man who was one of my idols, who wrote so many great songs, contributed so much to humanity while he was alive,” he says before taking to the piano and blowing everyone away.
As John performs this stripped-down version of “Empty Garden” below, it’s impossible not to be touched by the beautiful metaphors, the colorful lyrics, and John’s heartfelt delivery. It’s one of my favorite Elton John songs, and hopefully now it’s yours, too.
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