Meaning of “Daniel” by Elton John

“Daniel” is a song by British singer and songwriter Elton John. According to John’s longtime songwriting partner Bernie Taupin (who wrote the lyrics of this song), he was inspired to write the lyrics of “Daniel” after reading an article published in Time magazine about the touching story of several Vietnam War veterans who back home to the United States in the hope of enjoying some quiet and peace of mind (a normal life). However, when most of them got home, they were bombarded with a great deal of attention, which they greatly disliked.

According to Taupin, he picked the story and wrote it from the point of a view of a younger brother. The younger brother misses his disabled war veteran older brother named Daniel who travels far away from home in order to get away from the attention he was receiving at home.

Taupin explained that the lyrics of “Daniel” tell the story of a soldier (Daniel) who returns to a town in Texas after fighting in the Vietnam War. In the small Texas town, the soldier is praised as a hero and given so much attention. However, he finds the hero treatment and the excessive attention given him very uncomfortable because all he wants is to go back to his normal and quiet life in his farm.

Owing to the extraordinary attention he receives from his people, he decides to travel to Spain. Hence the famous line “Daniel is traveling tonight on a plane”.

But why Spain? Taupin chose Spain because it rhymes perfectly with the word “plane”.

According to Taupin, in writing this song, his main goal was to come up with something that “was sympathetic” to the soldiers who came back home from the Vietnam War.

Lyrics of the song "Daniel" by Elton John

Facts about “Daniel”

  • “Daniel” was written by Elton John and his long-term songwriting partner Bernie Taupin. Elton wrote the music for “Daniel” whereas Taupin wrote the lyrics.
  • The original version of the lyrics written by Taupin contained an additional verse, which Elton deleted because he felt that verse would have gone on to make the already long song even longer.
  • The track was produced by English record producer Gus Dudgeon.
  • “Daniel” was officially released on 26th March, 1973 as the second single from Elton John’s sixth studio album titled Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player.
  • Elton’s record company initially didn’t want to release the track as a single since they felt it was too long and not lively enough to become a hit. However, Elton put so much pressure on the record company they were forced to release the song as a single. The song eventually became one of Elton’s biggest hits.
  • On the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, the track peaked at number 2. On the UK Singles Chart, it peaked at number 4.
  • The song appeared in the 1974 romantic comedy film Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore by Martin Scorsese.
  • No official music video was ever made for the song “Daniel”.

 

 

What was in the last verse that Elton John cut out from the song? Did the deleted verse contain the true meaning of the song which Elton didn’t want people knowing?

Contrary to popular belief, the verse Elton deleted from the song didn’t contain any significant content that gave the song another meaning different from the meaning explained at the beginning of the post. According to Taupin himself, the missing verse which Elton got rid of didn’t say or explain anything that the other parts of the song didn’t do.

What musical genre is “Daniel”?

It is a soft rock song.

Did “Daniel” win a Grammy Award?

The song was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance at the 16th Annual Grammy Awards in 1974. However, the song lost to “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” by Stevie Wonder.

Which artists have covered this song?

Some of the most notable covers of this song include that of the American vocal group Wilson Phillips in 1991 and English singer Sam Smith in 2018.

 

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2 Responses

  1. Carlos says:

    Very nice but one minor problem with the premise. The lyrics suggest Daniel is blind (“your eyes have died”) which would make farming a bit of a challenge. Try plowing or driving a tractor by sound or smell, LOL!

    • Abrowne says:

      I am fairly certain that particular line refers to the impact of war on the human psyche- in this way, “your eyes have died” is an analogy for the thousand yard stare typically seen in war veterans and/or those who have witnessed unfathomable trauma.

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