Elton John and Bernie Taupin have to be one of the most legendary songwriting duos in all of music history. A long string of joint hits culminated in a 50+ year partnership that gave us hit single after hit single. Some common themes always appear in the songs they wrote, but audiences don’t always easily understand the true meaning.
Daniel is one of their most difficult works to perform despite its major success in the early 70s. In this article we will delve deeper into the meaning of Daniel by Elton John and Bernie Taupin.
Daniel It was a success
Daniel ended up being a hit single for John despite the record companies producing it. The song is dark, which made his label reluctant to release it as a single because they thought a track in that tone wouldn’t work very well.
The song ended up being the second single released from his 1973 album. Don’t shoot me, I’m just the pianist. The label proved to be wrong, as the track eventually reached number four on the UK Singles Chart and number two on the US Hot 100.
It even became her second number one single in Canada, following Crocodile Rock in his long series of successes in this country.
Daniel was inspired by a news article Taupin read about a Vietnam veteran. Apparently the article stated that the man had been injured in the Vietnam War and when he returned he wanted to get away from all the attention he received when he returned home.
The true meaning of Daniel by Elton John and Bernie Taupin
Daniel is often cited as one of John’s most misperformed songs, so it’s no surprise that many people have difficulty discerning the true meaning of this track. “Who gave us this quote?” you may be asking. Taupin, the song’s other writer and John’s longtime songwriting partner. In his own words:
“’Daniel’ was the most poorly performed song we ever wrote. The story was about a guy moving back to a small town in Texas, returning from the Vietnam War. They congratulated him on his return and treated him like a hero. But he just wanted to go home, go back to the farm and try to get back to the life he had before. I wanted to write something that was sympathetic to the people coming home.
Daniel was released on John’s 1973 album Don’t shoot me, I’m just the pianistnear the end of the Vietnam War and just as American troops were beginning to return home.
Some thought the song was about a man grieving the loss of his brother after the war. Maybe he wasn’t dead, but he was grieved because his brother had come back changed. Other theories circulated that the song was a coded gay anthem and a simple metaphor for family conflict.
One way to interpret the piece is that it was intended to shed light on the mindset of those returning from war. The veteran singer doesn’t want any accolades or praise for his role there because he knows what really happened. He knows the reality of war and it still torments him today. It is likely that this is one of the reasons why he cannot find peace; he cannot forget the things he has seen.
And it’s very likely that this is a solid way to interpret the piece as a whole. Even Taupin had said that this was meant to reflect guys from small communities coming back from war and not knowing how to deal with the love or hate they received from the public, depending on what part of the country they were returning to.
The Vietnam War was one of the most controversial events in American history. Many people were in favor of the war, but just as many people were totally opposed to it. All of this polarized people on both sides of the aisle, sparking protests across the country and ending up being a political debacle that lasted 20 years.
One of the main reasons for hating war was that the U.S. government was drafting men into the military and sending them to war without having any say in the matter. Two million two hundred thousand Americans were drafted into the war, sparking outrage across the country.
Many protest songs were written during this period, advocating peace and denouncing war as a whole. But very few leads focused on the real soldiers who went to fight on the way Daniel seemed to do so.
The biggest mystery of the song was that John had cut one of the verses at the end, feeling that the track was too long. Many believe that the final verses explained the true meaning of the song, although Taupin said that even though it was cut, it did not add much to the track.
It didn’t help that a final verse of the song was removed because, without those extra lines, the track became much vaguer. The lost lyrics depict the song’s veteran as unable to find peace after returning home. He just wants a simple life, something that comes up quite often in Taupin’s work, but he can’t actually get the life he wants.
Eventually, he decided to leave America and settle in Spain. Why Spain? Because it rhymed with “airplane”. So no deep meaning in why they chose this location for the move.
Without the conclusion of the last verse, very little is lost in the track. I actually agree with Taupin, in that the lines in the final verse don’t say anything that the rest of the song forgets.
As a contributing writer for Music Grotto, Dakotah writes and produces professional music/media content. He works closely with the editorial team to meet editorial standards and create
quality content for the Music Grotto site. Dakotah is passionate about music in a wide variety of genres, from hip-hop to country and lo-fi to metal, and he enjoys creating music tracks for Music Grotto.