“B.Taupin…Keeping The Bridge”
“Don’t call my lyrics poetry. It’s an insult to real poets”. Bernie Taupin
Bernard John “Bernie” Taupin (born 22 May 1950) is an English lyricist, poet, and singer, best known for his long-term collaboration with Elton John, writing the lyrics for the majority of the star’s songs, making his lyrics some of the best known in pop-rock’s history.
Taupin’s mother had studied French Literature and his maternal grandfather “Poppy” was a classics teacher and graduate of the University of Cambridge. They taught him an appreciation for nature and for literature and narrative poetry, both of which influenced his early lyrics.
“My mother’s father taught English literature. When I was about ten or eleven, I could recite Macaulay’s ‘Lays of Ancient Rome.’ While other kids were playing pedestrian war games, I’d be Horatius keeping the bridge“. Bernie Taupin
In 1967 Taupin answered an advertisement for talent placed in the New Musical Express by Liberty records A&R man Ray Williams who was searching for new talent. Elton John answered the same advert and although neither Bernie or Elton passed the audition for Liberty Records, Ray Williams recognised their talents and put them in touch with each other.
The pair have collaborated on more than 30 albums to date. The team took some time off from each other for a while between 1977 and 1979.
Taupin’s lyrics include such songs as “Rocket Man”, “Levon”, “Crocodile Rock”, “Honky Cat”, “Tiny Dancer”, “Candle in the Wind”,”Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting”, “Bennie and the Jets”, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”, “The Bitch is Back”, “Daniel”, and 1970s “Your Song”, their first hit. Hits in the 1980s include “I’m Still Standing”, “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues”, “Sad Songs”, and “Nikita.”
Taupin sometimes wrote about specific places in Lincolnshire. For example, “Grimsby” on Caribou was a tongue-in-cheek tribute to a nearby port town often visited by Taupin and his friends.
“Lincolnshire is the Idaho of England. You were either going to drive a tractor for the rest of your life or head for the city to work in a factory”. Bernie Taupin
In 1971, journalist Penny Valentine wrote that “Bernie Taupin’s lyrics were to become as important as Elton [John] himself, proved to have a mercurial brilliance. Not just in their atmospheric qualities and descriptive powers, but in the way he handled words to form them into straightforward poems that were easy to relate to.”
In 1973, Taupin collected all his lyrics up through the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album into a book entitled Bernie Taupin: “The One Who Writes the Words for Elton John”.
In addition to the lyrics from the albums, this book contained the lyrics to all the single B-sides, various rarities, and Taupin’s 1970 spoken-word album. The songs are illustrated by various artists, friends, and celebrity guests such as John Lennon and Joni Mitchell. The book is in black & white except for the cover.
In 1977, Taupin collaborated with rock photographer David Nutter on “It’s A Little Bit Funny”, adding text and helping chronicle Elton John’s year-long, “Louder Than Concorde, But Not Quite As Pretty” world concert tour.
In the 1990s, Taupin and John had more hits, including “The One”, “Simple Life”, “The Last Song” and “Believe.” In September 1997, Taupin rewrote the lyrics of “Candle in the Wind” for “Candle in the Wind 1997”, a tribute to the late Diana, Princess of Wales.
“I thought it was very important to project it from a nation’s standpoint. I wanted to make it sound like a country singing it. From the first couple of lines I wrote [which began “Goodbye England’s Rose”], the rest sort of fell into place” Bernie Taupin on writing the lyrics for “Candle in the Wind 1997”
“Elton John himself never seems pretentious but Bernie Taupin’s lyrics often do – sometimes pretentious in a clever sort of way, but pretentious nonetheless. There is a conflict between Elton’s and Bernie’s personal styles, no doubt about it”. Jon Landau
The 1991 film documentary Two Rooms described the John/Taupin writing style, which involves Taupin writing the lyrics on his own and John then putting them to music, with no further interaction between the two. The process is still fundamentally the same, with John composing to Taupin’s words, but the two interact on songs far more today, with Taupin joining John in the studio as the songs are written and occasionally during recording sessions.
“Writing for other artists”
In addition to writing for Elton John, Taupin has also written lyrics for use by other composers, with notable successes including “We Built This City”, which was recorded by Starship:
“These Dreams”, recorded by Heart
In 1978, he co-wrote the album From the Inside with Alice Cooper.
Taupin has also produced American Gothic for singer-songwriter David Ackles. Released in 1972, it did not enjoy big sales, but the album was highly acclaimed by music critics in the US and UK. The influential British music critic Derek Jewell of the UK Sunday Times described the album as being “the Sgt. Pepper of folk.” Of Ackles’ four albums, it was the only one recorded in England rather than in the United States.
In 1971, Taupin recorded a spoken-word album entitled Taupin, in which he recites some of his early poems against a background of impromptu, sitar-heavy music created by some members of Elton’s band, including Davey Johnstone and Caleb Quaye. Side One is entitled “Child” and contains poems about his early childhood in southern Lincolnshire.
1980 He Who Rides The Tiger
In 1980, Taupin recorded his first album as a singer, He Who Rides the Tiger. Although he demonstrated a more-than-adequate vocal ability, the album failed to make a dent in the charts.
In 1987, he recorded another album entitled Tribe. The songs were co-written with Martin Page. “Citizen Jane” and “Friend of the Flag” were released as singles. Videos of both singles featured Rene Russo, the sister of Toni, his wife at that time.
With Farm Dogs – 1996 Last Stand in Open Country
In 1996, Taupin pulled together a band called Farm Dogs,[whose two albums were conscious (and successful) throwbacks to the grittier, earthier sound of Tumbleweed Connection.
1998 Immigrant Sons
In 1998, Farm Dogs released its second and final album, Immigrant Sons. The album was unsuccessful despite a tour of small clubs across America.