Elton John

Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me

Song Review by

This heartfelt ballad proved to be the undeniable highlight of Caribou thanks to its combination of aching lyricism and a soaring melody. Bernie Taupin's lyrics present a narrator begging for a reprieve from heartbreak in the most nakedly emotional style imaginable: "Don't discard me/Just because you think I mean you harm/But these cuts I have inside/Oh, they need love to help them heal." Elton John lives up to the intensity of the lyrics with a powerful melody consisting of verse melodies whose abrupt ebb and flow convey the narrator's churning emotions and a heartbreaking chorus whose blend of soaring and descending phrases give it a "swirling" feel. Elton John's recording turns the song into a vocal showcase by downplaying his usual penchant for lush backing tracks in favor of a stripped-down arrangement: the sound is dominated by his rolling piano fills and a steady beat, plus touches of Beatles-ish guitar and stately horns on the chorus. The end result seemed like a hit waiting to happen, but it would not have seen release had it not been for the determination of producer Gus Dudgeon: John had trouble nailing his vocal and was ready to discard it, but Dudgeon kept his best take and added gorgeous backing vocals from a group consisting of Bruce Johnston, Carl Wilson, and Toni Tennille. Their lovely but subtle wordless vocals provide the perfect balance to John's soulful, sad lead, and the finished vocal combination of raw power and ethereal beauty helped the song become a number two hit. Since then, "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" has come to be considered as one of the gems of the John/Taupin catalog: it instantly became an audience favorite at live shows and has been successfully covered by Oleta Adams and George Michael (as a chart-topping duet with Elton John, no less).

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Caribou 1974 PolyGram 5:35
Greatest Hits 1974 Rocket Group Pty LTD / Island / Def Jam / Motown / Polydor / Universal / Universal Music 5:36
No Image 1980 K-Tel Distribution
No Image 1983 DJM Records 0:00
No Image 1984 Premier
The Very Best of Elton John [Polygram] 1990 Polygram / PolyGram 5:38
To Be Continued... 1990 MCA 5:38
No Image 1991 Image Entertainment
That Loving Feeling, Vol. 7 1994
Various Artists
5:34
Endless Love [PolyGram TV] 1995
Various Artists
Polygram
Hearts Desire: 18 Classic Love Songs 1995
Various Artists
Castle Music Ltd. 5:34
70's Greatest Rock Hits, Vol. 3: High Times 1998
Various Artists
Priority Records
Singers & Songwriters: 1974-1975 [1999] 1999
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 5:36
The 70's [Original TV Soundtrack] 2000
Original TV Soundtrack
Island / Polygram 5:38
The Love Songs Album [#2] 2000
Various Artists
Universal Distribution 5:34
The Greatest Hits 1970-2002 2002 Island / Universal 5:38
The Very Best of MTV Unplugged, Vol. 2 2003
Various Artists
Warner Music / MTV / Unplugged / Warner 6:55
Classic Tearjerkers [Time/Life] 2004
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 5:38
Dream Ticket 2004 WAB
Steve Wright's Sunday Love Songs: Love Supreme 2005
Various Artists
Universal International 5:36
Rocket Man: The Definitive Hits 2007 UMVD / Universal Distribution 5:37
The Ultimate Rock Ballads Collection [Time Life] 2007
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 5:37
20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of 80's Pop 2007
Various Artists
Universal Distribution 5:36
Just Like Belgium: The Definitive Hits 2008 Mercury / Universal Distribution 5:37
Singers & Songwriters [Time-Life Box Set] 2011
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 5:36
Songs for Japan 2011
Various Artists
Sony Music 5:34
Singers & Songwriters: 1974-1975 2012
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 5:36
Easy Listening Classics: Time Life's Movie Classics
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 5:36
No Image Rock