Behind the Song Lyrics: “I’m Still Standing,” Elton John & Bernie Taupin

Long before he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his contributions to music and charity, Sir Elton John was a young piano player in England. His first band, Bluesology, was formed in 1962 where John began to nurture his craft. Five years later, the trajectory of his professional career changed when he met lyricist, Bernie Taupin.

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John and Taupin had answered the same newspaper advertisement for singers and songwriters, but both were overlooked. Leaving the audition, John told a label representative that he was “hopeless” at writing lyrics which, consequently, led the representative to hand John an envelope of Taupin’s lyrics. With that lucky break, the two artists found each other, and since then, the duo has collaborated on more than 30 albums to date.

“[W]e’ve never ever had an argument professionally or personally, which is extraordinary because most songwriters sometimes split up because they get jealous of each other,” John told ABC. “And it’s exciting because it’s never changed from the first day we wrote songs. I still write the song when he’s not there and then I go and play it to him. So the excitement is still the same as it was from day one and that’s kept it fresh and it’s kept it exciting.”

One hit single that emerged from the legendary partnership between Elton John and Bernie Taupin is the synthpop-y “I’m Still Standing.”

The meaning of the lyrics on the 1983 track tells the story of a lover moving on after a breakup. Don’t you know I’m still standing better than I ever did/Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid/I’m still standing after all this time/Picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mind, John sings. The ingenuity of these verses lies in their simultaneous universality and intimate feeling.

“It’s perhaps one more example of the original idea being interpreted by everyone into something quite different,” Taupin said in a statement about the song. “I think people see it as an anthem based on Elton’s strong sense of survival in the face of adversity. Which, believe me, is perfectly fine by me.

“In fact, it’s probably infinitely more interesting, perhaps, than what it was initially written about. Which, if my memory serves me correctly, it was a sort of kiss-off to an old girlfriend. You know the sort of thing, ‘Don’t you worry about me, I’ll be perfectly fine.’ Unlike George Jones’ ‘She Thinks I Still Care,’ where, in fact, he really did, I really didn’t,” Taupin concluded.

In addition to the song itself, Elton John created a music video for “I’m Still Standing” that reached somewhat of a mythological standing. The video was filmed in France, where John ran into the members of Duran Duran while filming.

Former Duran Duran member, Andy Taylor, recounted his chance encounter with the glam rockstar in his book Wild Boy: My Life in Duran Duran. “There were lots of celebrities around in Cannes and one day we discovered that Elton John was in town, filming the video for his song ‘I’m Still Standing,'” Taylor wrote.

“This was before Elton became teetotal, so he was still a steaming party animal; we went up to see him at his hotel and spent the afternoon getting blasted on martinis. We decided it would be a laugh to get him drunk and we were slinging the drinks down him. ‘Ooh, you are lovely boys,’ he screeched, loving every minute of it. We got him so drunk that eventually he went upstairs and threw a wobbler in his suite. It caused all sorts of chaos—but it was a great party,” Taylor concluded.

“I’m Still Standing” would peak at number four in the UK and number 12 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 charts.

Watch the music video for “I’m Still Standing” by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, below.

Photo by Greg Gorman.

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