Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” Lyrics Meaning
The lyrics of “Tiny Dancer” were written by frequent Elton John collaborator Bernie Taupin in the early 1970s and are known to deal primarily with two topics. One is the women of California and more specifically Los Angeles. The other is a woman by the name of Maxine Feibelman, who Taupin married in 1971, with Elton John himself serving as his best man.
At the time of this song’s penning, Taupin had just recently moved from England to California. And the contrast between these two locations, specifically when it came to women he encountered, is the inspiration behind this track. So, for instance, we can see the song begins with Elton making a reference to an “L.A. lady”.
He also mentions the Los Angeles setting in general, such as “Jesus freaks out in the street” and “headlights on the highway”. But when singing on the subject of females, it is difficult to ascertain when he is talking about L.A. women in general or when he is referring to Feibelman in particular. Or more specifically, Feibelman is used as the personification of all L.A. women.
So for instance when this “L.A. lady” is identified as a “seamstress” and someone who “will marry a music man”, that’s definitely at least a partial shoutout to Maxine who served as Elton John band’s seamstress and once again did marry Taupin, a music writer.
In fact, Feibelman was the inspiration for a number of collaborations between John and Taupin. She is also credited for helping Elton develop some of his flamboyant stage costumes.
Taupin and Fiebelman divorced in 1976, and he later tried to say that “Tiny Dancer” was not about her. However, he had already stated back in 1973, apparently when their love was still strong, that the song is indeed about Feibelman. So the “Tiny Dancer” this song is dedicated to is not only the Los Angeles women who entertained Elton and co., but also more specifically Maxine Feibelman.
Interpretation of “Tiny Dancer”: By Another Hand
The song details a journey through Los Angeles, where the narrator meets a dancer and falls in love with her. He recounts the exciting experiences he had on the journey and is particularly thrilled at becoming this lady’s new lover.
John gives a vivid description of the woman as a pretty-eyed ballerina they met on their trip who is expected to marry a music man (Taupin, the songwriter). He recalls the various events surrounding the trip including the following:
- them meeting and ignoring street preachers along the way
- her singing and dancing to tunes
- sleeping after the long trip in linen sheets
Throughout the song, the narrator shares his admiration for this new lover and asks her to hold him closer and lie down together with no one around. He confesses that their love feels so real to him and all he wants is to be with her.
Considering the lyrical content of the song, it is highly possible that the song was inspired by these two events:
- Taupin’s relationship with Maxime Feibelman
- Taupin’s first visit to L.A from England where Maxime served as his tour guide
Taupin has however mentioned in a Rolling Stone interview that the song was not written for a particular person. According to him, it was inspired by the attractive women he met in L.A who were different from those he had been seeing in England.
Facts about “Tiny Dancer”
“Tiny Dancer” was authored by Elton John alongside his longtime songwriting colleague, Bernie Taupin.
John’s regular song producer, Gus Dudgeon worked on this track as well.
The song is included on the fourth studio album of John, labeled, Madman Across the Water. He picked “Tiny Dancer” as a single and released it on February 7th, 1972.
This song was also included on the iconic singer’s 2017 compilation album – Diamonds.
The track rose to greater prominence after it was used in the popular comedy-drama movie of 2000, Almost Famous. In addition, this track was also included on the soundtrack of the 2011 3D computer-animated comedy film, Gnomeo & Juliet.
Songwriter Bernie stated that his major inspiration in composing this tune came from an experience he had during his first-time visit to California, in1970. However, he had previously declared that this song was written for his then fiancée – Maxine Feibelmann, who he later got married to in 1971.
This song was unable to have a huge impact on the charts in many regions. It only managed to rank at No.41 in the United States. However, it performed quite okay in Australia and Canada, where it peaked at #13 and #19 correspondingly.
“Tiny Dancer” appeared at #397 on the list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, which was compiled by Rolling Stone magazine in 2010.
DJ Ironik interpolated the track in his 2008 song entitled, “Tiny Dancer (Hold Me Closer)”. He featured British rap artist, Chipmunk on this song.
More Interesting Facts
“Tiny Dancer” has been performed live on several shows and ceremonies. Notably among these performances include the duet with country music singer, Tim McGraw at the American Music Awards in 2002.
John also performed this song alongside Miley Cyrus at the 2018 Grammy Awards.
British actor/singer, Taron Egerton sang this tune in the 2019 biographical musical movie, titled, Rocketman. The movie is actually based on the life of Elton John. Egerton played the role of Elton John in this movie.
American rock ensemble, Red Hot Chili Peppers recorded a cover of “Tiny Dancer” in 1991.
Other recording artists who have also performed their version of the song include Ben Folds (in 2002), and the British rock group, Florence and the Machine (in 2018).
In 2006, DJ/mashup specialist, Girl Talk sampled segments of this tune in his song, named, “Smash Your Head”.
American President, Donald Trump used this song during several of his 2016 presidential campaigns.
British singer, Ed Sheeran referenced this song in his hit single of 2017, “Castle on the Hill”.
French DJ/songwriter, David Guetta made references to this track in his 2018 song, “Don’t Leave Me Alone”.
In 2022, Elton John linked up with American singer Britney Spears to record a new rendition of this great hit.