Empty Garden – From Elton (John) to (John) Lennon

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Of all tribute songs written by a non-Beatle for John Lennon after his senseless killing in December 1980, nothing compares for me to Elton John’s Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny).

The song likens John to a worthy garden caretaker that some inconsequential person took away, “A gardener like that one no one can replace…It’s funny how an insect can damage so much grain…” The lyrics are Bernie Taupin’s, Elton’s lifetime collaborator, while the beautiful melody is, of course, his own.

From what I remember, Elton rarely played it live since the song’s release in his 1982 album Jump Up! because it was painful for him to be reminded of John Lennon’s death. Elton was a close friend to John; their relationship was secured by their musical collaboration in the mid-1970s. Elton and John appeared together in a concert and Elton is Sean’s godfather.

The official video is accessible in youtube – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AABK5eY1DGc.

A harrowing live version of this song performed at the turn of the century at the Madison Square Garden is in this link – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xa_7cuGMIGg. Elton at the beginning explains why he rarely performed the song live.

The lyrics are here:

What happened here
As the New York sunset disappeared
I found an empty garden among the flagstones there
Who lived here
He must have been a gardener that cared a lot
Who weeded out the tears and grew a good crop
And now it all looks strange
It’s funny how one insect can damage so much grain
And what’s it for
This little empty garden by the brownstone door
And in the cracks along the sidewalk nothing grows no more
Who lived here
He must have been a gardener that cared a lot
Who weeded out the tears and grew a good crop
And we are so amazed we’re crippled and we’re dazed
A gardener like that one no one can replace
And I’ve been knocking but no one answers
And I’ve been knocking most all the day
Oh and I’ve been calling oh hey hey Johnny
Can’t you come out to play
And through their tears
Some say he farmed his best in younger years
But he’d have said that roots grow stronger if only he could hear
Who lived there
He must have been a gardener that cared a lot
Who weeded out the tears and grew a good crop
Now we pray for rain, and with every drop that falls
We hear, we hear your name
Johnny can’t you come out to play in your empty garden
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14 thoughts on “Empty Garden – From Elton (John) to (John) Lennon

  1. Don’t believe I’ve ever seen a performance by Elton of the song, thank you for the share. Know the two of them (Elton and John) were very good friends. Elton has had a lot of friends pass in his lifetime, many people, loved ones leaving the physical before we expected them to part.

  2. Very Beautiful and touching song. I also heard the lyrics that goes ” I’ve been knocking noone answer ” was because he really knocked in vain as Yoko didn’t open the door for him. Don’t know if this true, though. If so, he left and presented later this amzing tribute. Thank you , Elton. Hey Elton has played this song live. We can see it on youtube. Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZ0H9q5Lp-A

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