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Elton John Greatest Hits: The Rocket Man’s 15 Top Tracks, Ranked

The music man has been making us dance and tugging at our hearts for more than 50 years with these awesome selections!

For an artist who’s reinvented his look and persona at a rate that rivals Madonna — he’s sported everything onstage from a Dodgers uniform to a Donald Duck costume designed by Bob Mackie — the one thing that’s remained constant is the Elton John greatest hits — a steady string of stellar tracks that have come throughout the past half century.

“Thank you for entertaining everybody for so many decades,” Prince Harry told the artist in a taped tribute streamed as part of Disney+’s Elton John Live: Farewell from Dodger Stadium special in 2022. “Thank you for being the friend that you were for my mum,” Harry added to the “Candle in the Wind” singer, striking a touching, personal note about the power of Elton’s music, heart and talent.

Elton John performs on the piano
Elton John (2022) Getty

The event, of course, was to mark the singer’s retirement, but Kiki Dee, who joined him to sing their No. 1 smash “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” noted that she’s doubtful he’s truly headed for a rocking chair. “I can’t see him never playing live again once the tour is over – he loves it. I think he wants more freedom,” she told Great British Life. “I could see him doing 12 nights at the Hammersmith Odeon like Kate Bush.”

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Time will tell, but it’s a good bet. “A lot of rock musicians go into rock music to pull girls [but] that was never my motive,” Elton, who’s dad to sons Zachary and Elijah with husband David Furnish, once explained to NPR. “I was just wanting to play music. I was so obsessed with music, nothing entered my head apart from that.”

Elton John playing the piano
Elton John (1970) Getty

That obsession and commitment to his craft led to him selling more than 300 million records worldwide throughout his career, winning five Grammys, and, in 2018, being named as the most successful male solo artist in Billboard Hot 100 chart history.

The secret to his success has been quite simple. “If you write great songs with meaning and emotion, they will last forever because songs are the key to everything,” the entertainer, who turns 77 on March 25, told The Guardian. “Songs will outlast the artist and they will go on forever if they are good.”

Elton John greatest hits, of course, are better than good. Just by definition they’re, well, great. Here, we rank 15 of our favorites, though there are so many more that are worthy. Let us know what you would’ve put into the mix.

15. “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” (1994)

Starting off this list of Elton John greatest hits is “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”. Elton wrote the music to Tim Rice‘s lyrics for this charming tune from Disney’s The Lion King and he felt the song could “express the lions’ feelings for each other far better than dialogue could.”

It earned him a Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, plus Best Original Song honors at both the Oscars and the Golden Globes. The sweet song has been enjoying a resurgence of late, serving as the unofficial love theme of Abby and David on Netflix’s Love on the Spectrum. They even (spoiler alert!) sing it to each other in Africa!

14. “Crocodile Rock” (1972): Elton John greatest hits

“The last time I have to sing ‘Crocodile Rock’ I will probably throw a party. It was written as a kind of a joke, like a pastiche,” John told the Deeney Talks podcast of this No. 1 tune. “It became a big hit,” he admitted, though, “and people love to sing along with it. So who am I to say, ‘I am not going to play it’, because I play to amuse and entertain people.”

So, against his wishes, we’re including it here, as “I never knew me a better time” than singing along with the falsetto parts — just like the Muppets!

13. “I’m Still Standing” (1983)

This is just pure fun from the piano man, as illustrated by its playful and energetic video (keep your eye out for Dancing With the StarsBruno Tonioli as one of the young, scantily clad dancers!). The kiss-off-to-an-ex lyrics, penned by longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin, took on a double meaning, which we loved.

“I think people see it as an anthem based on Elton’s strong sense of survival in the face of adversity. Which, believe me, is perfectly fine by me,” Taupin once noted, adding, “In fact, it’s probably infinitely more interesting, perhaps, than what it was initially written about.”

12. “Daniel” (1973): Elton John greatest hits

Thwarted only by Paul McCartney and Wings’ “My Love” from hitting No. 1 here in the U.S., this hit has a deep, melancholy vibe throughout its music and lyrics that evokes a lot of emotion. The song, Taupin has said, is about a Vietnam war veteran coming home after service but longing for just peace and quiet, rather than fanfare.

When he doesn’t find it, he heads off to Spain. After the song was shortened by Elton and the label, some bits of the story were omitted, Taupin has explained, which turned it into “the most misinterpreted song that we’d ever written.” Clearly, though, it still resonates with fans.

11. “Levon” (1971)

The artist has noted that this song, while not about anybody specific, got its name from The Band’s Levon Helm, of whom Elton and Bernie Taupin were big fans. “He was the greatest drummer and a wonderful singer and just a part of my life that was magical,” Elton told Entertainment Weekly upon Helm’s death in 2012, sweetly noting how “my son [Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John] has his name,” as well as the memorable song’s.

10. “I Want Love” (2001): Elton John greatest hits

Robert Downey Jr. stars in the video for this later hit from Elton, delivering a powerful yet simple lip-synch of the song that magically conveys the loneliness and introspection of the lyrics. “[It’s] a song Bernie wrote, I think, about himself: A middle-aged man with a few divorces, wondering if he’s ever going to fall in love again,” Elton wrote in The Observer, noting how he related it to his parents’ relationship. “I suppose my mum and dad must have been in love once, but there wasn’t much sign they ever had been by the time I came along,” he said and, knowing that, his delivery of the song takes on a whole new life.

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9. “Benny and the Jets” (1974)

“It’s a story about a girl band,” Elton explains of this, one of the funkiest, most eclectic Elton John greatest hits, which features an oddly effective repetitive banging of the piano keys. “It’s androgynous, it’s sexy, it’s fantasy,” lyricist Bernie Taupin adds, and the tune boasts kooky lyrics that, again, are a whole lot of fun to sing along to, most notably, “She’s got electric boots, a mohair suit. You know I read it in a magazine, oh, yeah.” Especially when you mimic Elton stretching “magazine” out by an extra syllable or two.

8. “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” (1973): Elton John greatest hits

This high-energy, rollicking rock ’n’ roll number is a bit “Crocodile Rock,” a bit Jerry Lee Lewis’s “Great Balls of Fire.” The song — based on Bernie Taupin’s wild, bar-fighting days of his youth — was “the first time I’d ever recorded standing up, singing and leaping around the studio, going crazy,” Elton has said, and he used to bring that same kind of fervor to the stage when he’d perform this favorite to enthusiastic audiences.

7. “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” (1975)

This heartfelt — and at times brutally honest — ballad is an autobiographical song about a time Elton once considered suicide. It’s “a song Bernie and I had written about our pre-fame years, living in a flat in north London with a woman I’d foolishly got engaged to when I was still very confused about my sexuality,” Elton wrote for The Guardian. “I really had staged a completely ridiculous suicide bid that involved sticking my head in a gas oven. Rather than tell my fiancée I’d made a mistake, that was my brilliant plan to try and get out of the wedding.” At the time, Cash Box magazine raved that “Tchaikovsky would feel proud about Elton’s punctuated chords,” while praising its beautiful high harmonies.

6. “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word” (1976): Elton John greatest hits

Elton was tinkering on a piano when a heavy-hearted lyric presented itself. “I was sitting there and out it came, ‘What have I got to do to make you love me,’” he’s shared of the ballad’s opening line, which Bernie Taupin then fleshed out.

The universal breakup song hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart upon its initial release, then went to No. 1 in the U.K. in 2002 when Elton appeared on a cover done by the boy band Blue. “When we got Elton John on the phone and he said he wanted to do it with us, that was like a pinch me moment,” band member Duncan James said. “Then when we were in the recording studio and Elton came in, it was just like… Honestly, it was one of the best moments of our lives, just singing with Elton around a piano.”

5. “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” (1973)

Another No. 2 hit, this tune is “a wistful, sublimely melancholy ballad [that] showcases Elton’s effortless vocal versatility as he soars into an aching falsetto one moment and dips into a bluesy croon the next,” according to Billboard. “It was the height of our powers,” Elton has said of the time period this song and the 1973 album of the same name was written with his team of musical collaborators, and this song is irrefutable proof of that.

4. “Tiny Dancer” (1972): Elton John greatest hits

Bernie Taupin penned this song for his then-wife Maxine Feibelman, who was the “seamstress for the band” mentioned in the lyrics. Add in “John’s skyrocketing melody,” as Rolling Stone put it, and this awesome tune spins its way onto our list of Elton John greatest hits.

It got a second and third boost in popularity when it was featured in 2000’s Almost Famous and on Friends, after Phoebe thinks the lyrics are “Hold me close, young Tony Danza.” In 2021, co-star Courteney Cox posted a video of her, Sir Elton himself, Ed Sheeran and Brandi Carlile singing it for Lisa Kudrow (though they made a mistake on Phoebe’s mistaken lyrics. Maybe they should’ve just done “Get Back, Smelly Cat.”)

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3. “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” (1974)

This, too, hit No. 2 on the Billboard charts, and the original track features background vocals from Toni Tennille and two Beach Boys, Carl Wilson and Bruce Johnston. “Not only is it one of Taupin’s finest set of lyrics, [but] Elton’s vocal and [its] production work convey brilliantly the desperation and urgency of the words,” the Los Angeles Times said of this stunning track, which finally —and deservedly — hit No. 1 in 1991 when Elton duetted on it with George Michael.

2. “Rocket Man” (1972): Elton John greatest hits

Elton’s website acknowledges this gem as “his first global smash hit,” and it still transfixes listeners five decades after its release. A short story by science-fiction writer Ray Bradbury inspired Bernie Taupin’s oddly beautiful lyrics “about the drudgery of being an astronaut,” he’s said.

In 2012, astronaut André Kuipers sent a message to Elton from the International Space Station (ISS), saying, “This song has been an inspiration to many people who are interested in space, and especially those who wanted to become astronauts, including myself. It is certainly one of the most played songs here on the ISS, and we know it will accompany more astronauts into space in the future.” Here on Earth, we think it’s simply heavenly too.

1. “Your Song” (1970)

The musician has performed this song more than any other in his career, and fans like us never grow tired of it. In 2017, in fact, it was voted “the Nation’s Favourite Song” in the U.K. and even the late great John Lennon was enamored with it back in the day. “It was a step forward. There was something about his vocals that was an improvement on all of the English vocals until then,” the Beatle told Rolling Stone in 1975. “Your Song” has gone on to be inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998, and we can’t think of a better, more defining tune to top this list of Elton John greatest hits. “What can I say, it’s a perfect song. It gets better every time I sing it,” the artist himself noted in 2013.

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