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If you like Bernie Taupin's story, you might also like:
Johnny Cash,
Sheryl Crow,
Vince Gill,
Lauryn Hill,
Jeremy Irons,
Quincy Jones,
Naomi Judd,
B.B. King,
Wynton Marsalis,
Johnny Mathis,
Trevor Nunn and
Stephen Sondheim

Bernie Taupin's recommended reading: Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Related Links:
Roots Radio
Bernie Taupin
Rolling Stone
Elton John's site

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Bernie Taupin
Bernie Taupin
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Bernie Taupin Biography

Songwriters Hall of Fame

Bernie Taupin Date of birth: May 22, 1950

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  Bernie Taupin

Bernard John Taupin was born in a farmhouse in rural Lincolnshire, England. The countryside and farming villages of his youth provided an atmosphere that would be reflected in many of the song lyrics that Bernie Taupin wrote long after he left Lincolnshire. His veterinarian father managed farms for some of the county's large landowners, worked for the Ministry of Agriculture, and at one point ran a farm of his own. His mother and maternal grandparents were more academically minded and young Bernie inherited their love of literature. A dreamy child by his own account, he loved reading poetry, especially narrative poems, and was fascinated by the landscape and mythology of the American West as portrayed in Hollywood movies. His love of narrative verse and the Western came together when he first heard the cowboy ballad "El Paso," sung by the American country singer Marty Robbins.

At an early age, Bernie began writing poems of his own. Although he enjoyed reading and writing, he fared poorly on his math exams in school and was channeled into Britain's secondary school track like most village boys, rather than the grammar school track that led to university. As he saw it, the school system was preparing him for nothing but a life of manual labor on a farm or in a factory.

Bernie Taupin Biography Photo
When he left school at 15, he expressed an interest in journalism but the employment office placeed him in the pressroom of the The Lincolnshire Standard. He knew a career of tending the printing presses was not the life he wanted, but his surroundings seemed to offer him no way out. Quitting his job at the Standard, he spent the next few years working odd jobs as a farm laborer, and hanging out with his friends in bars and billiard rooms, a milieu he would evoke memorably in his song "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting." Like many British teenagers in the 1960s, he was electrified by the new sounds of rock and roll and rhythm and blues. He took up the guitar and pored over the popular music magazines, but he knew Lincolnshire was no place to make a career in music.

An unexpected turning point came in 1967, when Taupin's eye fell on a small advertisement in the New Musical Express. A start-up record company, Liberty Records, was inviting submissions from aspiring singers and songwriters. On a whim, Taupin submitted a sheaf of his free-form poetry and to his surprise was invited to audition for the company in London. A move to London would be a huge change for a country boy without schooling, but at age 17, Taupin decided to take his chances and move to London, for better or worse.

Liberty passed on him as a performer, but an astute executive at the company introduced him to another teenage aspirant, a pianist and singer named Reg Dwight. The 17-year-old poet and the 19-year-old piano player hit it off immediately. Bernie moved in with Dwight and his mother, and the two teenagers started writing songs together. Meanwhile, Reg Dwight worked as a session musician under a stage name that he would soon make famous: Elton John.

Bernie Taupin Biography Photo
The partners were hired as house songwriters by a record label and began turning out songs for the popular musical acts of the day. Their first songs mimicked currently popular styles, but the pair longed to write something more original. A publisher encouraged them to try releasing more personal material, and in 1969 Elton John recorded an album of original songs with lyrics by Bernie Taupin, Empty Sky. The following album, titled simply Elton John, made a splash on both sides of the Atlantic with its hit single "Your Song." The song made the Top Ten in both Britain and the United States, and the songwriting partners traveled to Los Angeles for Elton John's U.S. debut. It was Taupin's first visit to the country he had dreamed of since childhood, and just as he had imagined, he felt at home in America.

The lyricist recorded an album of his own in 1970, reciting his poetry with accompaniment by members of Elton John's band, but for the decade that followed, Taupin remained offstage, while Elton John became one of the most popular touring attractions in the world. In the next seven years, Elton John and Bernie Taupin spun out 14 bestselling albums, including Tumbleweed Connection, Madman Across the Water, Honky Château and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Each album yielded chart-topping singles: "Rocket Man," "Crocodile Rock," "Honky Cat," "Tiny Dancer," "Candle in the Wind," "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting," "Bennie and the Jets," "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,, "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me," "The Bitch is Back" and "Daniel." On the radio, on jukeboxes, in public places and private homes, their songs were inescapable. By turns exuberant and introspective, Taupin's lyrics helped define the spirit of the era.

Bernie Taupin Biography Photo
In the middle of the decade, the pair released their most autobiographical record, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, the first record ever to enter the American album charts at Number One. As the title suggested, Taupin's passion for the American West was still very much a part of his identity. In 1977, Elton John took a break from live performing, and the team took a break from their writing partnership. Taupin moved to the United States permanently, spending part of his time near the recording industry in Los Angeles, and still more of his time in the ranch country north of Santa Barbara.

Taupin remained active in the music business, writing an entire album, From the Inside (1978), with rocker Alice Cooper. In 1980, Bernie Taupin recorded He Who Rides the Tiger, his first album as a singer, and began once again contributing individual songs to Elton John albums. Taupin and John reunited definitively with the release of Too Low for Zero in 1983. Although Elton John has collaborated with other lyricists on theater and film projects, since 1983 his solo records have all been written with Bernie Taupin. Their hits in the 1980s included "I'm Still Standing," "Sad Songs" and "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues."

Between albums with Elton John, Taupin continued to enjoy success collaborating with other artists. He scored Number One hits in the U.S. in the mid-'80s with "We Built This City," recorded by Starship, and "These Dreams" for the group Heart. Taupin released another solo album, Tribe, in 1987 and the following year published the memoir, A Cradle of Haloes: Sketches of a Childhood. In the early 1990s, Taupin published a volume of poems, The Devil at High Noon, and a deluxe edition of the lyrics he had written for Elton John.

The AIDS crisis touched both Elton John and Bernie Taupin personally, as old friends were felled by the ruthless disease. In 1992, Taupin produced a massive live benefit concert for AIDS Project Los Angeles, featuring performances by artists from every strain of rock, R&B, pop and country music, including Elton John, Barbra Streisand, Liza Minnelli, Natalie Cole, Patti LaBelle, Eddie Van Halen, Billy Joel and Wynonna Judd among others.

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That same year, Taupin and John signed a publishing contract with Warner/Chapel Music for $39 million, the largest cash advance in music publishing history. Taupin realized a longtime ambition, purchasing a large farm in the Santa Ynez Valley, north of Santa Barbara, where he devoted himself to raising horses. He specialized in raising cutting horses, bred especially for the task of "cutting" or separating a single head of cattle from the herd. Realizing his Western dream in full, the English farm boy competed in Western-style cutting contests and raised a bucking bull that retired after three consecutive championship seasons of rodeo.

In 1994, Bernie Taupin was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Two years later, he put together a band of his own, Farm Dogs, and released two albums of original material, Last Stand In Open Country and Immigrant Sons. Although his records did not attract a large audience, other artists took notice, and a number have recorded successful cover versions of his songs. Elton John continued releasing albums of Bernie Taupin lyrics throughout the 1990s, including The One, Made in England and The Big Picture, producing more hit singles, "The One," "Simple Life," "The Last Song," "Club at the End of the Street" and "Believe."

The death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997 was mourned by ordinary men and women around the world. As plans for a state funeral were made, Diana's family asked Taupin and John to adapt their 1973 hit "Candle in the Wind" for the occasion. Taupin revised the original lyrics, a tribute to the film star Marilyn Monroe, to honor the memory of the late princess. Elton John performed the song at the memorial service in Westminster Abbey, broadcast around the world. The recording, "Candle in the Wind 1997," became the bestselling single of all time, selling more than 33 million copies and raising more than £55 million for the Princess's favorite charities.

Bernie Taupin Biography Photo
Other artists continued to record Bernie Taupin songs. Willie Nelson included three Taupin songs on his album The Great Divide. One of these, "Mendocino County Line" won the 2003 Grammy for best vocal collaboration in country music. Taupin contributed the song "Uncool" to Courtney Love's solo album America's Sweetheart and co-wrote "What I Really Want For Christmas," with Brian Wilson for the legendary Beach Boys founder's holiday album. In 2006, Taupin won a Golden Globe Award for the song "A Love That Will Never Grow Old" from the film Brokeback Mountain. Elton John and Bernie Taupin's collaborations in the 20th century included the albums Songs from the West Coast, Peachtree Road and The Captain & the Kid. When Elton John celebrated his 60th birthday with a concert at New York's Madison Square Garden in 2007, Bernie Taupin made an unexpected appearance onstage to reflect on their 40-year partnership.

In 2009, Taupin began hosting his own radio show, American Roots Radio, on the Sirius XM satellite station. Broadcasting from his ranch in Santa Ynez, Taupin programmed the show entirely from his enormous library of American blues, folk and country records. Taupin and Elton John collaborated with one of their favorite American musicians, Leon Russell, on a 2010 album The Union.

As Bernie Taupin entered his 70s, his creativity found still more outlets. He now devotes much of his time to art, exhibiting his paintings and mixed media work in galleries across the country. Although songwriting now occupies a much smaller portion of his time than it once did, Taupin continues to create acclaimed records with Elton John. In 2013 the pair were jointly honored by the Songwriters Hall of Fame with its Johnny Mercer Award. That same year they released a new album The Diving Board. In 2015, Island Records announced the release of another album of new songs from John and Taupin, Wonderful Crazy Night. Meanwhile, Bernie Taupin continues to write, paint and broadcast from his farm in California. Since 2004 he has been married to Heather Lynn Hodgins Kidd. They have two daughters.

This page last revised on Dec 04, 2015 16:42 EDT
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