The signature moment of George Michael and Elton John‘s 1991 live recording “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” can be heard halfway through the song when Michael dramatically announces to the crowd, “Ladies and gentlemen … Mr. Elton John!” The audience’s wild cheers nearly drown out the performance, foreshadowing the success of the single, which was released in late 1991 to benefit 10 charities.
On Feb. 1, 1992, the track rose from No. 3 to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, surpassing the performance of John’s original studio version, which peaked at No. 2 in 1974. The duet became the eighth No. 1 single for each artist (not counting two other chart-toppers that Michael scored as part of Wham! in 1984-85).
The roots of the collaboration trace back to March 13, 1985, when John presented Michael with the songwriter of the year honor at the Ivor Novello Awards in London. They became fast friends and soon began contributing to each other’s albums. In July of that year, they first performed “Sun” together at Live Aid.
On March 23, 1991, John surprised Michael backstage at London’s Wembley Arena, and they decided to duet on “Sun,” which was already part of Michael’s setlist. The single, which was recorded at that show, became Michael’s most recent Hot 100 No. 1, while John’s reworking of “Candle in the Wind,” in the wake of Princess Diana’s death, returned him to the summit for his longest reign, 14 weeks, in 1997-98.
Michael and John had a public fallout in 2004, reportedly over comments that John made to the press about Michael’s marijuana-fueled lifestyle, but reconciled in 2011, even singing “Sun” together at John’s White Tie & Tiara charity ball that June.
On Dec. 28, 2016, John performed “Sun” solo in tribute to Michael, following the latter’s passing, at age 53, on Christmas Day, three days earlier. “I am in deep shock,” John shared on Twitter that Dec. 26. “I have lost a beloved friend — the kindest, most generous soul and a brilliant artist. My heart goes out to his family, friends and all of his fans.”
On the Hot 100 dated Jan. 2, 2021, Michael appeared in the top 10 for the first time since 1996, as Wham!’s ’80s carol “Last Christmas” finally jingled to the region. It went on to hit a No. 7 high to-date on the Jan. 1, 2022, chart. Two weeks later, on the Jan. 15, 2022, tally, John returned to the tier with “Cold Heart (Pnau Remix),” with Dua Lipa, marking his 28th top 10 and first in 24 years.