The song was released in the United States in October 1970 as the B-side to "Take Me to the Pilot". Both received airplay, but "Your Song" was preferred by disc jockeys and replaced "Take Me to the Pilot" as the A-side, eventually making the top ten in several countries.
A demo version was included in John's 1990 box set album To Be Continued. The song has been covered by a number of artists, including Ellie Goulding, whose version reached number two on the UK Singles Chart in late 2010.
Taupin wrote the song's lyrics after breakfast one morning on the roof of 20 Denmark Street, London, where John worked for a music publishing firm as an office boy, hence the line "I sat on the roof and kicked off the moss".
The lyrics express the romantic thoughts of an innocent person. Taupin offers a straightforward love-song lyric at the beginning: "It's a little bit funny this feeling inside / I'm not one of those who can easily hide / I don't have much money but boy if I did / I'd buy a big house where we both could live." At times the self-deprecating narrator stumbles to get out his feelings, which despite being a melodramatic device, AllMusic calls "effective and sweet":
"Your Song" was praised by critics upon its release and in subsequent years. Bill Janovitz from AllMusic described it as a "near-perfect song". In a 1975 interview with Rolling Stone, John Lennon recalled, "I remember hearing Elton John's 'Your Song,' heard it in America—it was one of Elton's first big hits—and remember thinking, 'Great, that's the first new thing that's happened since we (The Beatles) happened.' It was a step forward. There was something about his vocal that was an improvement on all of the English vocals until then. I was pleased with it." John Mendelsohn from Rolling Stone called the song a "pretty McCartney-esque ballad".
The song was John's first pop hit. It rose to number eight on the Billboard Hot 100, and peaked at number seven on the UK Singles Chart. In 2002, John re-recorded the song as a duet with opera singer Alessandro Safina for the first Sport Relief charity telethon, and it reached number four in the UK. In the US, it was certified Gold and Platinum on December 13, 2012 by the RIAA on digital downloads. On March 31,2017 it was certified Gold by the British Phonographic Industry representing the sale of over 400,000 digital downloads.
English singer and songwriter Ellie Goulding covered "Your Song" for inclusion on the re-release of her debut album, titled Bright Lights. Produced by Ben Lovett of Mumford & Sons, it was released digitally on 12 November 2010 as the re-release's lead single. The song was featured in the Christmas 2010 television advert for department store chain John Lewis.
Nick Levine of Digital Spy gave the song four out of five stars, commenting that producer Lovett "shrouds her beautifully fluttery vocals in little but piano and strings, just adding a few harmonies towards the finish, allowing her to draw out the tenderness in Bernie Taupin's lyrics and the utter loveliness of one of Elton John's very best melodies. The result is a quiet, modest triumph, but a triumph nonetheless." Caryn Ganz of Spin magazine opined that her cover is "everything Gaga's Grammy version wasn't—a tender, vulnerable gift". Jon O'Brien critic AllMusic, in his review for Bright Lights, called it "unimaginative" and felt that it "sounds out of place alongside the rest of her rather more adventurous material."
"Your Song" debuted at number 39 on the UK Singles Chart for the week of 14 November 2010. The single jumped to number three the following week, selling 84,896 copies. In its third week, it climbed to its peak position of number two (behind The X Factor Finalists 2010's cover of David Bowie's "Heroes") on sales of 72,292 copies, becoming Goulding's highest-peaking single after the 2013 chart-topper "Burn". It maintained its position the following week, selling 63,753 units. The song also topped the UK Singles Downloads Chart for the week ending 11 December 2010.
The single was certified platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) on 22 July 2013, and had sold 755,326 copies in the UK by August 2013. Elsewhere, "Your Song" reached number four in Austria, number five in Ireland, number 22 in Denmark, number 25 in Sweden and number 56 in Switzerland.
The music video, directed by Ben Coughlan and Max Knight, premiered on YouTube on 14 November 2010. Shot in a home video look, it depicts Goulding's life on the road with friends. Areas from Goulding's hometown of Hereford can be seen throughout the video, including Hereford railway station.