Song for Guy was a hit for Elton John in 1978. This largely instrumental song was one of the few successful songs written without Bernie Taupin.
In 1976, after a record breaking streak of albums, Elton and Bernie had gone their separate ways. At the time, Bernie has checked into a clinic to clean up after what must have been a wild decade that had seen the release of Tumbleweed Connection, Madman Across the Water, Honky Chateau and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.
Elton continued writing, working with lyricist Gary Osborne instead working on what became Elton’s 12th album A Single Man.
Who was Guy?
Guy Burchett was a teenage boy working for Elton’s company Rocket Records. He died in a motorbike accident. Elton John had written the song the night before, but named the song on hearing the terrible news. I think it would be wrong to say this song was written for Guy.
Life Isn’t Everything
Elton wasn’t really a lyricist, that was Bernie. So it may not be a surprise this hit didn’t have many lyrics. just one line, repeated wistfully, ‘Life Isn’t Everything’. Who knows what it really means.
A Single Man
Song for Guy was taken from Elton’s 12th Studio, and first without Bernie.- A Single Man. It was a departure from his work to that point, changing writers and musicians to deliver an album that doesn’t really stick in the memory. Other tracks, like “Part-time Love,” “Shooting Star,” and “Return to Paradise.” The album received generally positive reviews from critics and was a commercial success, reaching No. 8 on the UK Albums Chart and No. 15 on the US Billboard 200.
While “Song for Guy” may not have enjoyed the spotlight during Elton John’s live performances or found its way onto his farewell setlist, its understated beauty and emotional resonance endure.
I first heard this song, as a kid, on a compilation tape I was given for Christmas. The Sensational Seventies was a six cassette compilation from the Readers Digest, covering the Seventies hits chronologically across the six tapes. Tape 6 was my favourite, with Song for Guy wedged between YMCA and I will Survive!
I don’t think this song was a concert favourite, he certainly didn’t play it when I saw him play and I don’t think it is on his farewell set list. One day, I’d love to play this on the piano. One day…