Elton John


Song Review by

Elton John’s early 1970's run of hit albums is unique in the pop music world for containing some of the most obtuse lyrics ever to appear on commerically successful pop albums. The best example of this unique quality is "Levon," a cryptic yet fascinating ballad that managed to become a top-30 hit in 1971. The lyrics are a character portrait of a money-obsessed businessman who "wears his war wound like a crown" and has a son that he has named Jesus because "he likes the sound." The world they live in appears to be loveless and on the brink of death, an atmosphere that is hinted at by lines like "He was born a pauper to a pawn on a Christmas day/When the New York Times said ‘God is dead and the war’s begun.’" Taupin also notes the dysfunctional nature of the father and son’s relationship with lines like "And Jesus he wants to go to Venus/Leaving Levon far behind." It’s a heady brew of images and themes but Elton John ties it altogether with a rousing ballad melody that builds energy in its verse with gorgeous, relentlessly-ascending phrases that build in intensity until they give way to a pulse-pounding chorus with an almost gospel feel. John’s recording of "Levon" takes the song into a cinematic dimension: it starts in a subtly moody fashion with solo piano but adds in sweeping strings and hard-hitting drum work to create a sound that is powerful and lush all at once. John completes the sonic portrait with a strong, melodic lead vocal that applies the right amount of emotion and energy necessary to keep the listener involved in the unusual lyrics. This arrangement helped make "Levon" a stunning rock ballad epic worthy of "A Day In The Life" and its compelling sound helped the song become a chart hit despite its epic length. "Levon" quickly became a regular feature in John’s live set and remains a favorite on oldies radio, where it continues to sound as powerful and mysterious as ever.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Madman Across the Water 1971 Def Jam / Island / Rocket Group Pty LTD 5:22
Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 1986 Island / Def Jam / motownmoe.com / Polydor / Universal 5:22
To Be Continued... 1990 MCA 5:22
The Greatest Hits 1970-2002 2002 Island / Universal 5:25
Chronicles 2005 Island 5:22
5 Classic Albums (1970-1973) 2012 Island / Mercury 5:22
Classic Elton John Polygram
No Image Rock