The One Song Elton John Stopped Playing Live Due to a Broken Heart

“Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)” was penned by Elton John and his longtime songwriter Bernie Taupin back in 1982. The song was featured on the album Jump Up! and is one of the most successful singles from the album. It’s also considered one of John’s most underrated tracks to date. And sadly, the song has some heartbreaking connotations, which is why John has rarely ever played it live.

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“Empty Garden” was written about former Beatles star John Lennon, who was John’s close friend and collaborator. Lennon was murdered in 1980, and “Empty Garden” was John’s tribute to his beloved friend. He had even performed with Lennon at the latter’s very last concert at Madison Square Garden a few years before his death.

The Origins of Elton John’s “Empty Garden”

According to Elton John, he was afraid of writing a song like “Empty Garden” for Lennon, as he thought a tribute song would end up being “clumsy.” However, Taupin changed John’s mind when he showed him the lyrics he had come up with.

The music video for the song was similarly heartwrenching. It features John alone in a replica of John Lennon’s home, solemnly performing the tune on his piano.

One notable performance of the song occurred in 1982 at Madison Square Garden with Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon in attendance. He played the song again later that year on Saturday Night Live.

Today, John has shelved lived performances of the song. During a concert back in 1999 in Madison, Wisconsin, John told the audience that performing the song brings back too many painful memories of the day of Lennon’s death. He did perform “Empty Garden” in 2013 during his Las Vegas residency, but it hasn’t been played live since. And that’s certainly understandable.

(Photo by Steve Morley/Redferns)

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