My Sunday Song – “Empty Garden (Hey, Hey Johnny)” by Elton John

For My Sunday Song #56, I have gone with one of the greatest John Lennon tribute songs ever written or performed…”Empty Garden (Hey, Hey Johnny)” By Elton John.  The song was released in 1982 which was about 18 months after Lennon’s death.  It is off the album ‘Jump Up!’ and was not one of his best albums, but this was the best song on it.  It was a minor hit and only reached #13 on the Billboard Hot 100.

However, for me it resonated as such a beautifully written song.  Bernie Taupin wrote the lyrics (as he did for all of Elton’s songs) and Elton did the music.  The lyrics tell such a touching story and the metaphor of an empty garden fort he absence of Lennon is brilliant.  Put that along with the beautiful piano and Elton’s vocals and you have a song that can touch you on so many levels.  Knowing that Elton John was such good friends with Lennon (including being Sean Lennon’s godfather), you could feel Elton’s true feelings of how much he missed his friend and that even adds more to the song.

In researching the song (wikipedia mostly had the better information), I found that the “Garden” was also a reference to John Lennon’s last performance which was at Madison Square Garden in 1974 with Elton John.  The line “Can’t You Come Out to Play” is a reference to the Beatles’ song “Dear Prudence” which is cool. I love finding those things out as I never made that connection so now it adds to the song for me.

From my own personal take on the song, there is another line in here “It’s funny how one insect can damage so much grain”.  That insect is probably a reference to Mark David Chapman who shot and killed Lennon.  The grain are the fans who were all so devastated at the loss of their musical hero.  There are just so many great lines and words that are perfectly describing how people felt.  Bernie Taupin could definitely write a great song.

Sadly, Elton rarely ever plays the song live as it brings back too many painful memories for him which is understandable.  However, we do get to enjoy its beauty forever.  If you have never heard it before, give it a listen and pay attention to the lyrics as they are so poignant.

Enjoy and Happy Sunday!!!

“Empty Garden (Hey, Hey Johnny)”

What happened here
As the New York sunset disappeared
I found an empty garden among the flagstones there
Who lived here
He must have been a gardener that cared a lot
Who weeded out the tears and grew a good crop
And now it all looks strange
It’s funny how one insect can damage so much grain
And what’s it for
This little empty garden by the brownstone door
And in the cracks along the sidewalk nothing grows no more
Who lived here
He must have been a gardener that cared a lot
Who weeded out the tears and grew a good crop
And we are so amazed we’re crippled and we’re dazed
A gardener like that one no one can replaceAnd I’ve been knocking but no one answers
And I’ve been knocking most all the day
Oh and I’ve been calling oh hey hey Johnny
Can’t you come out to playAnd through their tears
Some say he farmed his best in younger years
But he’d have said that roots grow stronger if only he could hear
Who lived there
He must have been a gardener that cared a lot
Who weeded out the tears and grew a good crop
Now we pray for rain, and with every drop that falls
We hear, we hear your name

Johnny can’t you come out to play in your empty garden

Written by Bernie Taupin & Elton John

4 thoughts on “My Sunday Song – “Empty Garden (Hey, Hey Johnny)” by Elton John

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