Trying to evaluate the totality of Elton John’s legendary 50-plus-year run as a musician is a tricky proposition, because in many ways, his career has always run on two separate tracks.
On one hand, he’s Elton John the pop idol — the guy behind the outrageous fashion statements, the celebrity duets, the expansive albums and tours, the cross-platform ubiquity, and the many, many iconic smash hits. On the other hand, he’s Elton John the rock singer/songwriter — the guy who idolized Levon Helm and Leon Russell, who (along with longtime creative partner Bernie Taupin) made entire Western-themed albums without pulling any singles from them, who found late-career inspiration in such artists as Ryan Adams and Low Cut Connie, who co-penned some of the most covered piano ballads in history, who at the end of the day was just one half of The Captain and the Kid. It can make any discussion about your Elton favorites feel like a schizophrenic experience.
One thing is for sure, though — you’ve got plenty to choose from. Arguably no artist outside of The Beatles has meant more to both the pop and rock canons over the last 60 years than Elton John, having accomplished nearly every measure of success and longevity that a musician could hope to achieve in either genre. He’s got the Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 hits, the Billboard 200 No. 1 albums, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, the Walk of Fame star, the Kennedy Center Honor, the knighthood. He’s got the greatest-selling single of the last 50 years, with a song he says he’s played a total of three times and listened to exactly once. He’s got the more intangible career markers, too: iconic movie sing-alongs to his songs, groundbreaking performances alongside unlikely collaborators, a key role in the childhood of anyone who was of Disney-watching age in 1994. He’s also got one of the top five songs in the world, right now, just a day removed from his 75th birthday.
To celebrate that upcoming personal milestone (though given his own historic birthday commemorations, ours will likely pale in comparison) we’ve put together a list of our 75 favorite Elton John songs. It’s all still just scratching the surface of his generations-spanning career — and we’ve no doubt there’s plenty more to come — but whether your own Reginald Dwight journey has been more of a yellow brick road or a tumbleweed connection, we expect you’ll find plenty here to love. Happy upcoming birthday to Sir Elton. To everyone else, come blast off with us on a timeless flight into one of the most out-of-this-world catalogs in the history of popular music.