TUESDAY TUNES | TINY DANCER | ELTON JOHN
Posted on April 21, 2015
— t u e s d a y t u n e s —
T I N Y D A N C E R
is a song by ELTON JOHN
with lyrics by writing partner Bernie Taupin.
“We came to California in the fall of 1970 and it seemed like sunshine just radiated from the populace,” Taupin says. “I guess I was trying to capture the spirit of that time…
Elton John and Bernie Taupin by Dezo Hoffmann
‘Tiny Dancer’ was written in 1971 and released as a single in 1972. They were inspired by John’s writing partner Taupin’s first trip to America. Both are from England, and this was the first album they wrote after spending time in the US.
The “Blue jean baby, LA Lady, seamstress for the band” could have been written for Maxine Feibelmann, who was Taupin’s girlfriend when he wrote the song and who became his first wife in 1971. She traveled with the band on their early tours, often sewing together the costumes and fixing their clothes. On the ‘Madman Across The Water’ album, it says, “With love to Maxine” under the credits for this song. Elton John even said at one point that Bernie wrote it about his girlfriend.
But dedicating a song to someone and writing a song about that person are two different things, and Taupin clarified the confusion in an interview with Rolling Stone which he quotes on his website:
“We came to California in the fall of 1970 and it seemed like sunshine just radiated from the populace,” Taupin says. “I guess I was trying to capture the spirit of that time, encapsulated by the women we met, especially at the clothes stores and restaurants and bars all up and down the Sunset Strip. They were these free spirits, sexy, all hip-huggers and lacy blouses, very ethereal the way they moved.”
“They were just so different from what I’d been used to in England,” Taupin continues. “They had this thing about embroidering your clothes. They wanted to sew patches on your jeans. They mothered you and slept with you. It was the perfect Oedipal complex.”
Taupin’s lyrics effortlessly bring these women to life by amalgamating them into a single “blue-jean baby” who captures the heart of the narrator. She floats among her surroundings seemingly unaffected, handling even the rougher aspects of it with a shrug:
“The boulevard is not that bad.” Her charms are never more evident than in the immortal lines about her reaction to her favorite song:
“The words she knows, the tune she hums.” Taupin adds that the “tiny” was poetic license, although these women were all petite. And “Tiny Dancer” sounds a lot better than “Small Dancer” or “Little Dancer.”
The song was featured in the 2000 movie ‘Almost Famous’. Director Cameron Crowe cast the song in a crucial role in his definitive film about rock and roll life. It is used in a scene where the fictional band Stillwater is at the end of its tether due to infighting. As a tense silence hovers over the tour bus, the drummer slowly begins banging out a familiar beat and, one-by-one, band members and groupies begin singing the words to “Tiny Dancer” until they’re all screaming out the refrain.
Elton was pleasantly surprised to learn about this song’s use in the movie as it didn’t always get a great reaction when he performed it live. Speaking to Rolling Stone in 2011, Elton recalled:
“Jeffrey Katzenberg called me and said, ‘There’s a scene in this film which is going to make ‘Tiny Dancer’ a hit all over again.’ When I saw it, I said, ‘Oh my God!’ I used to play ‘Tiny Dancer’ in England and it would go down like a lead zeppelin. Cameron resurrected that song.”
Source : a mash-up of americansongwriter.com & songfacts.com
“Blue jean baby, L.A. lady,
seamstress for the band
Pretty eyed, pirate smile, you’ll marry a music man
Ballerina, you must have seen her dancing in the sand
And now she’s in me, always with me,
tiny dancer in my hand”
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