Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me

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"Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me"

Sleeve for 1986-87 live version charity single
Single by Elton John
from the album Caribou
B-side "Sick City"
Released 20 May 1974
Format Vinyl record (7"), audio cassette, CD
Recorded Caribou Ranch, January 1974
Genre Soft rock
Length 5:35
Label MCA, DJM, Rocket/Phonogram
Writer(s) Elton John, Bernie Taupin
Producer(s) Gus Dudgeon
Elton John singles chronology
"Bennie and the Jets"
"Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me"
"The Bitch Is Back"
"Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me"
Single by George Michael/Elton John
from the album Duets
Released 30 November 1991
Format Vinyl record, (7" and 12") audio cassette, CD
Recorded Wembley Arena, London, 23 March 1991
Genre Soft rock, piano rock
Length 5:47
Label Columbia, Epic
Writer(s) Elton John, Bernie Taupin
Producer(s) George Michael
Certification Gold (RIAA)
George Michael/Elton John singles chronology
"Cowboys and Angels"

"Easier to Walk Away"
"Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me"

"Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me"
"Too Funky"

"The One"
Twenty Five - (George Michael) track listing
"Heal the Pain"
"Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me"
"Jesus to a Child"

"Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" is the first single from British musician Elton John's 1974 album Caribou; it was released that year during the latter half of May in the United Kingdom, and on 10 June in the United States.

Lyrics and music[edit]

In the song, Elton sings to someone he has helped and from whom he is now experiencing rejection:

I took a chance and changed your way of life
but you misread my meaning when I met you
closed the door and left me blinded by the light
don't let the sun go down on me
although I search myself, it's always someone else I see.
I'd just allow a fragment of your life to wander free
but losing everything is like the sun going down on me.

It was written with the other songs on the album during a ten-day period in January 1974.

The chorus of the song is supported with a horn arrangement by Del Newman, and features backing vocals of the Beach Boys' Carl Wilson and Bruce Johnston, and Toni Tennille. Also on the song are percussion accents provided by Ray Cooper and a mellotron played by Dave Hentschel.

1986/1987 live version[edit]

A live version recorded on 14 December 1986 appears on the Live in Australia with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra album. An edited version of this recording was released as a single in 1987 and also appears in the To Be Continued... box set.

1991 version[edit]

As successful as the 1974 record had been, it was as a duet with George Michael that "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" had its greatest success. The pair had performed the song at the Live Aid concert in 1985. Recorded live at a concert at Wembley Arena, London on 23 March 1991 when Elton John was a surprise guest of George Michael, the duet became a massive hit on both sides of the Atlantic. It was released later that year and reached number one on the UK singles chart for two weeks in December 1991 and a single week on the Billboard Hot 100 in February 1992. The duet also spent two weeks at number one on the Adult Contemporary chart.[1]

The footage used for the music video of the song was taken from a "live" concert in Chicago with 70,000 fans. "The video was actually shot over several days," confirms Michael Pagnotta, George's publicist. "It was shot in an airline hangar in Burbank, California where George had been rehearsing; Elton came in for a night and they ran through the song a couple of times. Then the song was filmed in its entirety live in Chicago in the middle of October as part of that Cover to Cover tour, and when Elton came out from the wings, that place went crazy."[citation needed] It appears on John's Love Songs compilation. The proceeds from the single were divided among 10 different charities for children, AIDS and education.

Chart performances[edit]

"Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" charted on 1 June 1974 in Great Britain, making it to number 16. In the United States, it was released while "Bennie and the Jets" was still in the Top 40, and reached the Top 10 after four weeks. On 10 August, the song's two-week stay at number 2 ended. It could not oust John Denver's "Annie's Song", Roberta Flack's "Feel Like Makin' Love" nor Paper Lace's "The Night Chicago Died" from the top spot. But a number 2 pinnacle guaranteed it further airplay. In the U.S., it was certified Gold on 6 September 1974 by the RIAA. In Canada, it reached number 1, becoming his fifth chart topper in that country.[2]

Cover versions[edit]

"Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" has been a popular song for other artists to perform or record as well. Jay Chattaway arranged this song into a jazz version, which Maynard Ferguson first performed in the 1970s show "The Mark of Jazz" with host Sid Mark.[3] This live version stems from around 1975; it was never recorded onto an album.

Roger Daltrey sang it for the 1987 soundtrack The Lost Boys.

African-American Gospel group The Winans released a version of the song on their album Decisions in 1987.[4]

Gloria Estefan recorded her cover in 1989 and was included as a B-side to her "Here We Are" single, as well as the final track to international editions of her 1994 Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me album.

Jazz singer Oleta Adams recorded it on the 1991 tribute album Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin.

In 1991 CKBE-FM David Tyler.

Joe Cocker recorded his version of the song on his album Night Calls in 1991.

Late 1990s punk cover specialty act Me First and the Gimme Gimmes also took it on.

In December 2002 David Sneddon won the BBC's first Fame Academy show singing it. Sneddon also put his version of Elton's song on the B-side, which was number one in the UK Singles Chart in January 2003.

In 2003, Vanessa Carlton performed the song during the Elton John Tribute Concert. Also in the 2000s, "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" has become a frequent selection of reality television singing contestants.

The song is covered by the company Wavegroup for the music video game Karaoke Revolution Presents: American Idol.

Blues singer Bettye LaVette covers the song on her 2010 album Interpretations: The British Songbook.

Garth Brooks for the 2013 "Classic Rock" album in the "Blame It All on My Roots: Five Decades of Influences" compilation.

Reggae singer Ed Robinson covered the song on his 2014 release "On Covers."

Track listings[edit]

  • May 1974 US/UK 7" vinyl single
  1. "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me"
  2. "Sick City"
  • February 1991 UK 7" vinyl single/cassette
  1. "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me"
  2. "Song for Guy"
  • February 1991 UK 12" vinyl/CD single
  1. "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me"
  2. "Song for Guy"
  3. "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word"
  • November 1991 US/UK 7" vinyl/cassette single
  1. (John & George Michael) "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me"
  2. (Michael) "I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)"
  • November 1991 US/UK 12 vinyl single
  1. (John & George Michael) "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me"
  2. (Michael) "I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)"
  3. (Michael) "Last Christmas"
  • November 1991 US/UK compact disc single
  1. (John & George Michael) "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me"
  2. (Michael) "I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)"
  3. (Michael) "If You Were My Woman"
  4. (Michael) "Fantasy"
  • November 1991 US/UK compact disc single
  1. (John & George Michael) "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me"
  2. (Michael) "I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)"
  3. (Michael) "Freedom (Back to Reality Mix)"
  4. (Michael) "If You Were My Woman"

Charts and sales[edit]

Chart successions[edit]

Original Elton John version

Preceded by
"Annie's Song" by John Denver
Canadian RPM number-one single
10–17 August 1974 (two weeks)
Succeeded by
"Feel Like Makin' Love" by Roberta Flack

George Michael/Elton John version

Preceded by
"Black Or White" by Michael Jackson
UK number one single
7 December 1991 – 14 December 1991 (2 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Bohemian Rhapsody/These Are the Days of Our Lives" by Queen
Norwegian VG-lista number one single
52/1991 – 5/1992 (7 weeks)
Succeeded by
"You" by Ten Sharp
Preceded by
"I Love Your Smile" by Shanice
Dutch Top 40 number one single
11 January 1992 – 29 February 1992 (8 weeks)
Succeeded by
"I Can't Dance" by Genesis
Preceded by
"Let's Talk About Sex" by Salt-n-Pepa
Swiss number one single
26 January 1992 – 1 March 1992 (6 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Das Boot" by U96
Preceded by
"All 4 Love" by Color Me Badd
US Billboard Hot 100 number one single
1 February 1992 (1 week)
Succeeded by
"I'm Too Sexy" by Right Said Fred
Preceded by
"Can't Let Go" by Mariah Carey
US Billboard Adult Contemporary number-one single
8–15 February 1992
Succeeded by
"What Becomes of the Brokenhearted" by Paul Young
Preceded by
"Black or White" by Michael Jackson
Eurochart Hot 100 number one single
8 February 1992 – 28 March 1992 (8 weeks)
Succeeded by
"To Be with You" by Mr. Big
Preceded by
"Qui a le droit... (live)" by Patrick Bruel
French SNEP number one single
22 February 1992 – 4 April 1992 (7 weeks)
Succeeded by
"You" by Ten Sharp


  1. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961-2001. Record Research. p. 169. 
  2. ^ a b "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Retrieved 2014-03-30. 
  3. ^ "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" on YouTube, Maynard Ferguson (Retrieved 2 March 2009)
  4. ^ "Winans, The - Decisions (Vinyl, LP, Album) at Discogs". Retrieved 2014-03-30. 
  5. ^ "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me", Dutch Mega Top 100 (Retrieved 15 January 2009)
  6. ^ a b Irish Singles Chart (Retrieved 15 January 2009)
  7. ^ "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me", UK Singles Chart (Retrieved 15 January 2009)
  8. ^ a b Billboard (Retrieved 15 January 2009)
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" (duet version), in various singles charts (Retrieved 15 January 2009)
  10. ^ a b "Single top 100 over 1992" (PDF) (in Dutch). Top40. Retrieved 14 April 2010. 
  11. ^ "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" (duet version), UK Singles Chart (Retrieved 15 January 2009)
  12. ^ "1992 Austrian Singles Chart" (in German). Austriancharts. Retrieved 14 April 2010. 
  13. ^ "1992 Swiss Singles Chart" (in German). Swisscharts. Retrieved 14 April 2010. 
  14. ^ "Billboard Top 100 - 1992". Retrieved 2010-07-30. 
  15. ^ French certifications (Retrieved 15 January 2009)
  16. ^ a b U.S. certifications (Retrieved 15 January 2009)

External links[edit]