Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)

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"Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)"
Single by Elton John
from the album Jump Up!
B-side"Take Me Down to the Ocean"
Released28 May 1982[1] (UK)
RecordedSeptember–October 1981
Length4:06 (single version)
5:05 (album version)
Songwriter(s)Elton John, Bernie Taupin
Producer(s)Chris Thomas
Elton John singles chronology
"Blue Eyes"
"Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)"

"Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)" is a song by English musician Elton John, written by John and Bernie Taupin, which first appeared on his sixteenth album Jump Up! released in 1982. It was the second single of the said album in the UK,[2] and the lead single in the United States.[3] The song is a tribute to John Lennon, who had been murdered 15 months earlier.[4]

Composition and background[edit]

Lennon and John were good friends, and in 1974, Lennon appeared on John's single cover of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", the B-side of which was Lennon's "One Day (At a Time)". The pair later collaborated on "Whatever Gets You thru the Night", which appeared on Lennon's album Walls and Bridges. Lennon agreed to appear in concert with John if "Whatever Gets You thru the Night" became a No. 1 single, which it did. On Thanksgiving Day, 1974, Lennon and John performed it, along with "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and "I Saw Her Standing There" at Madison Square Garden. This would be Lennon's last live performance. The song title "Empty Garden" refers to the empty venue.[5] The song uses a garden metaphor throughout to represent Lennon's efforts, achievements, and absence.

After Lennon's death, John was concerned that a tribute song to the late Beatle would be "clumsy" – until he saw Taupin's lyrics. The song is written using the chords of the E major scale.

Elton John wrote and recorded an earlier instrumental tribute to Lennon, "The Man Who Never Died", which was issued as the B-side of "Nikita" in 1985 and eventually included as a bonus track on the remastered reissue of Ice on Fire.

Music video[edit]

The music video featured John playing his piano and singing the track in front of a replica of Lennon's apartment, where he was assassinated.


Billboard said that it came closer to matching John's best work than any of his recent songs.[6] Record World said that it's a "simple, touching tribute to John Lennon" and that "it features one of Elton's strongest vocal efforts in recent memory."[7]

Elton has rarely performed the song live, after the 1982 world tour, because it brings back many painful memories of Lennon's murder, as he once stated during a concert on 5 November 1999, at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wisconsin,[8] and prior to that at a concert on 9 October 1988 at The Centrum in Worcester, Massachusetts. In the latter case, John played the song, as well as "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", in his third encore to mark what would have been Lennon's 48th birthday.

Notable performances include one at Madison Square Garden, with Lennon's widow Yoko and Elton's godson Sean in the audience in 1982. He also performed the song during his first appearance on 17 April 1982 episode of Saturday Night Live hosted by Johnny Cash.

In April 2013, John added the song to the setlist of The Million Dollar Piano, his residency show at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace.[citation needed]


Three percussion instruments – namely castanets, maracas and tambourine – are audible, possibly overdubs from Jeff Porcaro or perhaps an uncredited percussionist.

Chart performance[edit]


  1. ^ "Elton John – Empty Garden".
  2. ^ "Elton John – Empty Garden".
  3. ^ "Elton John – Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)".
  4. ^ "Neither 'Rocket Man' Nor 'Tiny Dancer' Is Elton John's Best Song". Esquire. 29 May 2019. Retrieved 9 February 2023.
  5. ^ "Elton John: 20 essential songs". The Daily Telegraph. 1 October 2015. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 15 December 2019.
  6. ^ "Top Single Picks". Billboard. 20 March 1982. p. 71. Retrieved 21 January 2023.
  7. ^ "Hits of the Week" (PDF). Record World. 3 April 1982. p. 1. Retrieved 2 March 2023.
  8. ^ "Elton John – Empty Garden (Live in Kohl Center, 11/05/1999)". Retrieved 20 June 2022 – via YouTube.
  9. ^ "Item Display – RPM – Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. 12 June 1982. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  10. ^ "Item Display – RPM – Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. 29 May 1982. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  11. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Empty Garden". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved March 4, 2018.
  12. ^ "Elton John – Empty Garden". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved 7 June 2020.
  13. ^ "garden | full Official Chart History | Official Charts Company". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 24 April 2021.
  14. ^ [Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955–2002]
  15. ^ "Elton John Chart History (Adult Contemporary)". Billboard. Retrieved 7 June 2020.
  16. ^ "CASH BOX Top 100 Singles". Retrieved 2 March 2016.
  17. ^ "Item Display – RPM – Library and Archives Canada". collectionscanada.gc.ca. Archived from the original on 11 August 2016. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  18. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1982/Top 100 Songs of 1982". Musicoutfitters.com. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
  19. ^ "The CASH BOX Year-End Charts: 1982". Archived from the original on 13 September 2011. Retrieved 8 July 2015.

External links[edit]