Elton John – Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)

This song was one of my favorite Lennon tribute songs.

This song is a tribute to John Lennon, who was murdered in 1980. Elton John’s songwriting partner Bernie Taupin wrote the lyrics, but Elton certainly felt a connection to the song, as he was good friends with Lennon and is the Godfather of Lennon’s second son, Sean. Elton appeared onstage with John at his final concert in 1974.

Empty Garden peaked at #13 in the Billboard 100, #8 in Canada, #14 in New Zealand, and #51 in the UK in1982

Some of the other songs that are tributes to John are Queen – Life Is Real, George Harrison – All Those Years Ago, Paul McCartney – Here Today, Bob Dylan – Roll On John, and Paul Simon – The Late Great Johnny Ace.

From Songfacts

In the John/Taupin songwriting partnership, Bernie writes the lyrics first and Elton then puts them to music. When writing for the Jump Up album, Elton had some melodies handy and asked Taupin to write words to those, which he did. Taupin has described those songs as “awful” and said, “it’s a very messy album.” “Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny),” however, was written their traditional way with the lyrics first, and Taupin has said that it’s the only good song on the album.

When he performed this at a sold-out Madison Square Garden show in August 1982, Elton was joined onstage by Lennon’s wife Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon.

 

Empty Garden

What happened here
As the New York sunset disappeared
I found an empty garden among the flagstones there
Who lived here
He must have been a gardener that cared a lot
Who weeded out the tears and grew a good crop
And now it all looks strange
It’s funny how one insect can damage so much grain

And what’s it for
This little empty garden by the brownstone door
And in the cracks along the sidewalk nothing grows no more
Who lived here
He must have been a gardener that cared a lot
Who weeded out the tears and grew a good crop
And we are so amazed, we’re crippled and we’re dazed
A gardener like that one no one can replace

And I’ve been knocking but no one answers
And I’ve been knocking most of the day
Oh and I’ve been calling, oh hey hey Johnny
Can’t you come out to play

And through their tears
Some say he farmed his best in younger years
But he’d have said that roots grow stronger, if only he could hear
Who lived there
He must have been a gardener that cared a lot
Who weeded out the tears and grew a good crop
Now we pray for rain, and with every drop that falls
We hear, we hear your name

And I’ve been knocking but no one answers
And I’ve been knocking most of the day
Oh and I’ve been calling, oh hey hey Johnny
Can’t you come out to play

And I’ve been knocking but no one answers
And I’ve been knocking most all the day
Oh and I’ve been calling, oh hey hey Johnny
Can’t you come out, can you come out to play, Johnny
Can’t you come out to play in your empty garden, Johnny
Can’t you come out to play in your empty garden, Johnny
Can’t you come out to play in your empty garden, Johnny
Can’t you come out to play in your empty garden, Johnny
Can’t you come out to play in your empty garden, Johnny
Can’t you come out to play in your empty garden, Johnny

 

Author: badfinger20

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

27 thoughts on “Elton John – Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)”

    1. I agree with that totally…most of his 80s stuff lacked soul…a lot of his stuff sounded like he was trying to write a hit.

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  1. I don’t think I’d ever heard that Elton song before. Interesting story behind it.
    What do you you think of Dylan’s Roll On John? I must admit I’m not a big fan of it.
    I love the first half of Tempest, but the second half leaves me quite cold.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved this song (and you don’t hear it on the radio, anymore, either) but, I never knew it was about Lennon. Not a clue…

    It is a WONDERFUL piece. It still gives me chills to hear it even not knowing what it was about.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I remembering hearing it for the first time on a top 40 show…of course they introduced it as that…
      His best song of the 80s to me.

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    1. Yea I don’t think he would want released…from what I’ve read there is a contract on him…or used to be…I don’t know if they “expire” or not.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I remember when this song came out – it was sort of a comeback for Elton – for a while he was not played at all on the rock stations in the late 70s early 80s – with this song he got back on the radio again as well as MTV.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Solid tribute. “All Those Years Ago” is very good too. Both of these songs capture a distinctive signature of Lennon’s sound. Jeff Lynn could get inside that space and occupy it very well, also. As good as Empty Garden is, I think I prefer All Those Years Ago. Harrison blends his signatures around Lennon’s so effortlessly. There is joy there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember I bought the All Those Years Ago single…it was very catchy. Paul and Linda did backups and Ringo drummed…so that made it more special.
      George put his touch on everything and it was more noticable than McCartney…George had his own style.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Since I started this blog… I’ve heard that George was a favorite more than I would have ever thought…and it’s a great thing.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Nice to hear. He’s my daughters favorite too. I think he is a very underrated guitarist. You rarely hear his name when the greats are mentioned, but to me he is every bit as distinctive as Keith Richards. He plays lead guitar very rhythmically.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Oh his lead you can pick out from anyone. People are still trying to get the same slide sound he had. John and Paul did not appreciate him like they should have.

        Liked by 1 person

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