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Tiny Dancer by Elton John

Album: Madman Across The WaterReleased: 1971Charted:
41
  • The lyrics were written by Bernie Taupin, John's writing partner. They were inspired by Taupin's first trip to America. John and Taupin are from England, and this was the first album they wrote after spending time in the US. Taupin and John spent a lot of time together in the '70s; Bernie traveled with the band would usually stand by the soundboard during shows.
  • The "Blue jean baby, LA Lady, seamstress for the band" sure sounds it's Maxine Feibelmann, who was Bernie Taupin's girlfriend when he wrote the song and who became his first wife in 1971. She traveled with the band on their early tours, often sewing together the costumes and fixing their clothes. Plus, on the Madman Across The Water album, it says, "With love to Maxine" under the credits for this song. Elton John even said at one point that Bernie wrote it about his girlfriend.

    Well, Taupin says that the song was not about Maxine. Here's the story he tells: "We came to California in the fall of 1970, and sunshine radiated from the populace. I was trying to capture the spirit of that time, encapsulated by the women we met - especially at the clothes stores up and down the Strip in L.A. They were free spirits, sexy in hip-huggers and lacy blouses, and very ethereal, the way they moved. So different from what I'd been used to in England. And they all wanted to sew patches on your jeans. They'd mother you and sleep with you - it was the perfect Oedipal complex."

    Taupin adds that the "tiny" was poetic license, although these women were all petite. And "Tiny Dancer" sounds a lot better than "Small Dancer" or "Little Dancer."
  • The Madman Across The Water album was much more heavily-produced than Elton's first four. It was one of his first songs with a lush string section arranged by Paul Buckmaster, who arranged the stings on many of Elton's albums as well as songs by The Rolling Stones, Train, and Leonard Cohen. Ron Cornelius, who played guitar on Cohen's album Songs Of Love And Hate, told us: "Buckmaster is a wonderful string arranger, he's just one of these guys who can make an orchestra talk. In other words, if the strings aren't saying something, it ain't on the record."
  • Rick Wakeman, who later joined the group Yes, played keyboards on the album.
  • This was featured in the 2000 movie Almost Famous. It is used in a scene where the band is mad at each other, but remembers why they love music when they all start singing this on their tour bus.

    In 2011, Budweiser used the same "Tiny Dancer changes the mood" theme in a commercial that debuted on the Super Bowl. In the spot, a gruff cowboy starts a sing-a-long to the song when he gets his beer. Peter Stormare, whose film credits include Fargo and The Big Lebowski, played the cowboy.
  • Elton was pleasantly surprised to learn about this song's use in Almost Famous, as it didn't always get a great reaction when he performed it live. Speaking to Rolling Stone in 2011, Elton recalled: "Jeffrey Katzenberg called me and said, 'There's a scene in this film which is going to make 'Tiny Dancer' a hit all over again.' When I saw it, I said, 'Oh my God!' I used to play 'Tiny Dancer' in England and it would go down like a lead zeppelin. Cameron resurrected that song."
  • Elton performed this as a duet with Tim McGraw to open the 2002 American Music Awards. McGraw was named Favorite Male Country Artist, but left before he could accept the award.
  • In 2008, DJ Ironik interpolated this for his album No Point In Wasting Tears, in a version featuring the rapper Chipmunk. This reworking, which was titled "Tiny Dancer (Hold Me Closer)," hit #3 in the UK. Elton John is featured in the video. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
  • On October 28, 2010, Elton played the Electric Proms, and the following evening appeared on the BBC magazine programme The One Show where two members of the audience had been at the show the previous night, and the guy - Guy! - had proposed to his girlfriend during Elton's performance of "Tiny Dancer". He insisted on them coming up to meet him.

    Fortunately, nobody alluded to the ill-omens that Elton's marriage ended in divorce when he decided that neither the lovely Renate Blauel (nor any woman) was the right person for him, nor even worse that Bernie Taupin and his tiny dancer were divorced in 1976, and that by the time this programme was aired, the lyricist was on his fourth wife! (thanks, Alexander Baron - London, England)
  • When Tony Danza hosted the ESPY Awards on ESPN, Chris Berman gave him the nickname Tony "Tiny" Danza. He hated it. On the show, he claimed he wanted the nickname Tony "Extrava" Danza.
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Comments: 82

To follow up on Kristen from Scottsdale's comment, Michael Scott sings this song during the season 2 "The Dundies" episode of "The Office," changing the words to "You have won a tiny Dundie." A bar patron mocks him and yells out, "Sing it, Elton!" Later, the actual chorus plays over the final scene as Jim Halpert watches Pam Beesly and Angela Martin drive away.Jeff - Centennial, Co
This is an orchestrated rock masterpiece. It blows me away that the audiences in the 70s didn't seem (by their reaction to it) to appreciate the beauty of this song. Fantastic music & lyrics. Love Elton John's music & Taupin's lyrics. probably my fav Elton John song.Mike - Nampa, Id
I loved that episode of WKRP! I was in high school at the time, and my best friend and I both had a crush on Howard Hessman, as well as the actor who played Andy Travis! And at the end, when Ivan goes off with his group, and Andy and Bailey walk off to that song... we cried every time!Maggie - St Paul, Mn
Remember the movie "Aloha Bobby and Rose" it was in that as well along with Bennie and the Jets. Tiny Dancer has always made me stop and think back. What an incredible song.Constance - Alief, Tx
In an interview with Bernie J.Taupin he tells us the meaning behind Tiny Dancer and who he wrote it for. http://www.berniejtaupin.com/discography.bt?ds_id=356Penya - Los Angeles, Ca
To clear up the mystery about the Fashion Designer (Genie) who lived upstairs from the Whiskey Ago go I included a like for you. I too had a Coutre House next to the Whiskey on the Sunset Strip, but on a different year. http://counterculturalbooks.wikia.com/wiki/Jeannie_FranklynPenya - Los Angeles, Ca
Played it for my daughter ; she was 10 at the time. She asked me "Is this a new song ?" I replied "No" . She asked me "Why can't they write songs like this anymore?" I don't know Ariana, I just don't know...Jorge - Sunrise, Fl
This song is BEAUTIFUL! I love the way his voice goes high when he sings later in the song...Gorgeous! <3Megan - Stevenson, Al
To Valerie-Eureka, Ca. - yes, I also read decades ago that Tiny Dancer was written for Jeannie/Genie the Tailor. Could swear it was either Rolling Stone magazine or 16 magazine. It appears that there are only a few of us who not only read/heard that news but also remember it! I read she did custom work for Elton, Rolling Stones, etc ... and they all loved her as she was such a great seamtress and a beautiful person who died far too young in a traffic accident.Patti - Rochester, Ny
Hi Valerie,
Indeed, I have also read that Tiny Dancer is about Genie the Tailor.
Whether it is or not, I don't know, though I do know that Genie the Tailor was Jeannie Franklyn, a clothes designer.
She died when Fairport Convention's bus came off the road after a gig in 1969. (She was the girlfriend of Richard Thompson.)
Apparently Jack Bruce's Songs for a Tailor is named for her.
Tom - Portland, United Kingdom
The DJ Ironik track which sampled Tiny Dancer was titled Hold Me Closer as he couldn't obtain the proper clearance to use the real title. Elton John became interested in the DJ Ironik version months after it had become a big club anthem and gave his permission for the dance version to be released commercially.Jon - Scotland, United Kingdom
Despite the song being used on the "Almost Famous" soundtrack, "Tiny Dancer" was never really one of Elton John's better known songs. In fact, it took 30 years for the song to be included on one of his "Greatest Hits" albums. Today in the UK, it's one of Elton's most popular songs played on British radio. And this is all because of the movie "Almost Famous" which is just as fantastic as the song.Jon - Scotland, United Kingdom
I dont know why I woke up with this song in my head,havent heard it in years,but havae to say I ve listened to it 3 times already this morning to try to understand it,and what it means..to meGina - Atlanta, Ga
"Tiny Dancer" was my father's special song for me when "Madman Across the Water" was released in 1971. Despite the fact that my father and I couldn't sing or dance, we sang and danced to this song so often that it was one of the first lyrics that I memorized. I still can't listen to it without thinking about my relationship with my father and getting all misty-eyed.Serra - Santa Fe, Nm
Elton John is great. Favorite song of all time.Ilianna - Chandler, Az
oh dayum!! lol The Heroin seems a whole lot more plausible than the masturbation theory!! A lot of the parts in the song really did allude to heorin use/addiction... Even the silhouette of a "tiny dancer"/ballerina is a vague representation of a hypodermic needle...Mrg-malo - Albuquerque, Nm
OK, about the WKRP episode: I just watched the episode you are referring to, and it's not about a Russian figure skater. The episode is called "The Americanization of Ivan," and it's about a Russian hog expert that wants to defect. In the episode, the INS office in Cincinnati isn't able to accept a Soviet defector, so Ivan has to pretend that he hates the US to avoid rousing the suspicions of his colleagues, and he heads for Cleveland with his delegation, where the INS office will be able to accept his defection. It's Episode 33, in case you're wondering, and it's on the DVD of the first season of WKRP, which is the only season out on dvd so far, though I really hope they release the whole series. That's totally unrelated to the song, but I couldn't let the world live with a misconception about Dr. Johnny Fever. Do it for Johnny!Jas - Clifton, Tx
There was an episode of WKRP in Cincinnati were Johhny Fever fell for a Russian female skater and she want to defect, but it didn't work. If i remember it right, in the end she had to act like she hated the U.S., but before she left she said "hold me close my tiny dancer" to Johnny as a code. The show ended with Johnny playing the song on the air and reflecting.Clint - Lower 48, Ct
guess what folks. My sister is the real Lady Goodman. Here is the scoop. Cameron Crow had an office mate named Debbie Gold back in the 70's. Debbie was good friends with Lady and would get on the phone to talk with Cameron. Years later he recalled her name and she was asked to use it in the unnamed film which became Almost Famous. Ironically (or not) she was a huge groupie too!. Her fave was Leon Russel and she followed him all over the country (she denies this but it is true)!!Bonnie - Palo Alto, Ca
I can't tell you how many innocent bubbles I have burst by telling people this but "Tiny Dancer", like almost every Rock song ever written, is about HEROIN. You don't believe it? Try this. Listen again to the song critically, and see if the images fit into the context of heroin. Here are a couple of examples to get you started. "Blue jean baby" = that little bulge that a tiny packet of the drug makes in your pants pocket. "LA lady" = speaks for itself. "Seamstress for the band" = the needle. Okay, now go ahead and work through the rest on your own.Splunge - Tampa, Fl
it is "Pirate Smile". Bernie Taupin was an amazing writer.Brad - Long Island, Ny
I was just watching Almost Famous. The band was on a bus singing Tiny Dancer. I decided to look this up online because I recall YEARS (I'm 60 yrs old now) ago an article in a newspaper about a woman, Jeanie The Tailor...seamstress for the band, who was killed in a car accident or bus or some kind of vehicle. As I recall, the song was written for her. I don't know her real name maybe it was Jeanie. Hey, I'm not even sure if she spelled it Jeanie or Jeannie. Either way, I tried looking up Jeanie the Tailor in my browzer bar and got nothing. I looked up Tiny Dancer and got stuff about Bernie Taupin's first wife, girlfriend Maxine Feibelman being the person the song was written about. So now, was she the one killed? There was no info on that anywhere. I know I am not crazy so has history changed? Please help and aging rock fan!Valerie - Eureka, Ca
It's such a beautiful song! Its my favorite scene in Almost Famous when they're on the bus and start singing it.Beth - Manhatten, Ny
In 1974 I was 17 riding along one night in the rain with my husband of two years, holding my new baby girl as the song "Tiny Dancer" played on the radio. I am now 51 and when I hear the song play, it makes me feel so bitter sweet as my "Tiny Dancer" is all grown up and gone. It was the best year of my life. The memories music can stir up in our hearts and minds is amazing.Jackie - Apple Valley, Ca
This song was written about a dancer Reginald Dwight (Elton) met in Los Angeles. She also inspired him to write "Suzie" as well as "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" after she announced to him that she was pregnant. He left town, and no one knows what happened to her or the child.Joanna - Los Angeles, Ca
I recall reading a few years back that the 'Tiny Dancer' that Bernie wrote about was indeed the girl he married, Maxine, the 'seamstress to the band'.
The 'piano man makes a stand in the Auditorium' is a reference to Eltons show stopping first performance in LA on their first tour to the USA
Malcolm Gibson - Holyhead,
Follow-up: I communicated via e-mail with Gavin Edwards, who said that he never specifically asked if Bernie's future wife ever sewed anything for him! The status of this remains in limbo...........Rich - El Segundo, Ca
This trivia question, "Elton John songwriter Bernie Taupin penned which '71 hit for his future wife, who was a seamstress for the band" was one of my favorites for my upcoming board game Rock of Ages (rockofagestrivia.com).
So it was with a little dismay when I read in this OTHERWISE FANTASTIC book "Is Tiny Dancer Really Elton's Little John?" ('Music's most enduring mysteries, myths, and rumours' 2006, Gavin Edwards, title in reference to the masturbation theory)that, although dedicated to, it wasn't for his fiancee and neither was she a seamstress. In an interview with the author, pg. 127, Taupin said the song wasn't about any one woman, especially his ex. In reference to the women of 1970, quote, "I was trying to capture the spirit of the time, encapsulated by the woman we met-especially at clothes stores up and down the strip in L.A. They were free spirits, sexy in hip huggers and lacy blouses, and very ethereal, the way they moved. So different from what I'd been used to in England. And they all wanted to sew patches on your jeans".
Could this be a retrospective sour grapes comment? It is with much reluctance I will delete this question from my game!
Rich Negrete
Rich - El Segundo, Ca
"I need to go home". "You are home".Jesse - East Setauket, Ny, Ny
That scene in Almost Famous is definitely one of the best and it is perfect for Kate Hudson's character Lady Goodman, a.k.a. Penny Lane.Katie - Charleston, Sc
This song was also in "Almost Famous", the scene where one of the band members had been tripping on acid and the teenage reporter gets him back on the bus. Now everybody is mad at each other and "Tiny Dancer" comes over the speakers in the bus and they all start singing on cue. It made them happier and that my friends, is what i think the song does to all of u when we hear it...makes us feel better!!!Kevin - Knoxville, Tn
Since Piano Man had not been written, and this song was written by Bernie Taupin, and considering the backstory, I think the "Piano Man" is Elton John--the words she knows the tunes she hums.Dale - Santa Fe, Nm
This is one of my favourite songs of all time. My boyfriend used to sing this to me before he died so everytime i hear it it reminds me of him and i cry but i still love it.Caitlin - Brisbane, Australia
from a musicians point of view this is such a difficult song to play and sing well.e.j. hits the top c,s in the chorus effortlessly.classic elton before he had to have his throat op.he stopped playing this live for a long time after cos he,s got no falsetto now,but has started to bring it back into the set again due to popular demand but he now sings the chorus in a lower arrangment,which doesnt really have the same effect.for some reason this song never gets played over here in england,ever.ive no idea why as i personally think its the best song he ever did.if you`re a fan of this song check out the accoustic version on the old grey whistle test.its on youtube somewhere.also check out ben folds accoustic version from the album ben folds live.fantastic cover,ben really does the song justice and plays it with real feeling.Fig - Bradford, England
This song is played on an episode from "The Office". "Michael Scott" (Steve Carrell) sings this at the Dundie awards in Chili's. The episode is "The Dundies"Kristen - Scottsdale, Az
This is definitely my favorite Elton John song.Scott - Boston, Ma
his is my favorite song of all time. I attended a EJ concert here in NY. Maxine Feibelmann not only went on the tours, she danced by herself to the side of the stage. I imagine that's where the part of the lyrics about 'you must have seen her, and 'the tune she knows, the song she hums!' There is a picture of her inside the Madman across the Water Album (on an inset) of her smiling and it really is a "pirate's smile."Marie - Ithaca, Ny
Mary from Phoenix: I'm not sure, but I think Billy Joel didn't do the song Piano Man until a few years after Tiny Dancer. As for why he's referred to as the Piano Man, that song was kind of autobiographical and I guess the name was taken from a period in his life when he played in piano bars.Renee - Bloomington, Mn
"There is an urban legend that this is about Elton John's penis."
- Sara, Greenville, AL

Trust me, if a guy writes a song about his manhood, he ain't gonna use the word "tiny."
Dean - Kansas City, Mo
This song is so amazing,the piano,his voice,everything in this song is to perfect.I love it!Chelsea - Wichita, Ks
I love this song! When i was trying to figure out who made the song i was going by the lyrics "everybody has private dancers!" instead of "hold me close young tiny dancer!". Like a stripper y'know.Willam - La Mirada, Ca
I heard it somewhere that Elton John is refering to Billy Joel in the line: "Piano man he makes his stand In the auditorium" But didn't this come out way before Billy Joel became famous and before the song "Piano Man". Maybe that's how he got the name Piano Man. Hmmmm...any thoughts?Mary - Phoenix, Az
THis Song is Awesome!...i really love this.! ASTIG!. ROck N ROLLRondon - Caloocan, Other
amazing song. while watching almost famous it brought a happy tear to my eye, it was just such a strong part in the movie i thought.Brooke - Portland, Or
My Pawpaw would sing me to sleep with this song when i was little before he died and whenever i listen to it i just get overcome with this great feeling!
<3
Julie Michelle - St. Louis, Mo
THIS IS A WONDERFUL SONG! it gives me the goosebumpsShannon - Sioux Falls, Sd
This song is listed in 'The Book of Rock Lists as one of 5 songs about masturbation along with "A little help from my friends", "Turning Japanese" et.al.Mikey - Boston, Ma
Ilove almost famous my fav movie and i love when they all sing in the bus!!! it's soo awesome!!! i love the song!!! i have it in my ipod!!!Rain - Calgary, Canada
There is an urban legend that this is about Elton John's penis.Sara - Greenville, Al
Elton John performed this song with Ryan Adams on a CMT Crossroads TV special.Jordan - Nanaimo, Canada
I discovered this song in an odd way. It had been on my iPod for a while, but I only listened to Rocket Man, Levon, and Crocodile Rock (which are by no means bad songs). I was going to delete it and Your Song, but I decided to give them a try. I was incredibly impressed that I played both songs 22 times EACH in one day. But I didn't get tired of either of them, which is amazing. All the new music I hear now gets so boring after a long time! I get so annoyed when my friends think Fall Out Boy is the best thing ever! My mom has every Elton John album on LP, and I can see she's happy when I play Tiny Dancer on my iTunes playlists.Emmie - Long Island, Ny
I bought the album Mad Man Across the Water when I was a freshman in High School in 1971 and wore it out as I did many E.J. albums. Tiny Dancer was always a favorite. But it wasn't until a couple of years ago that I watched Almost Famous on cable for the first time and witnessed the rebirth of this song in the famous bus scene. Since then I have watched this movie a dozen times with that scene as my favorite and a very profound part of this wonderful movie. I grew up in the 70's and that movie brought back so many wonderful flashbacks. I recently bought Madman Across the Water again on the SACD Surround Sound remastered CD. Technology has only made this classic even better. I have always been curious of the inspiration behind the song since in the album below the lyrics of Tiny Dancer is a picture of a young woman and below it states "With love to Maxine". I thought she was possibly an early love interest of Elton's until I found this web site and read it was Bernie Taupin's girlfriend at the time and eventually his wife. Thank YouBill - Indianapolis, In
i have always thought that it said "hold me close TONY DANZA" that was before i new the title.Jamie - Brooklyn , Ny
Since Elton John's gay I thought it was "Hold me closer, time to dance sir."Joe - Bethlahem, Pa
definately one of my favorite songs ever.Phil - Bowie, Md
Great song!!! And great movie...I watch it over and over....everytime it gets to the part where there singing the song on the bus it gives me chills!!!!!!!!! Elton John you are the manJanice - Brunswick, Ga
GREAT SONG! but whenever i hear it, i picture a girl that a guy loved, dying....the lyrics lay me down....that part just puts it in my head! Does anyone else think of that?Lacie - Whitefish, Mt
(1) yes, the song is the same one that Tim McGraw covered a few years ago.
(2) this is NOT his first album with Paul Buckmaster, who did the strings on the Elton John (self titled) album, Friends soundtrack, and Tumbleweed Connection. But it was a landmark for him in writing, playing, and production.
(3) Bernie Taupin split with Maxine in 1976 after he discovered she was carrying on an affair with Kenny Passareli, formerly one of Bernie's closest friends on the road. The song "Between Seventeen And Twenty " on Blue Moves, speaks about this.
Liquid Len - Ottawa, Canada
someone at my work told me that it reminds them of the song tim mcgraw sings. it is the same right?? thats why i would like to know what it means!! help pleaseHaden - Seattle, Wa
I love that song ispecially in the movie almost famous this part is the heart of the movieElie - The U.k, England
..."to just love one silly little piece of music so much it hurts"..thats what tiny dancer is (that comes from almost famous)Danielle - Sarnia, Mi
I love this song. After i saw almost famous i had to have the album! It's a great song to sing along too!Brittany - Richmond, Ky
I also used to sing, "Hold me closer, Tony Danza" when I was young.Courtenay - Murray, Ut
As a rule of thumb, this is every woman's favorite Elton John song.
- Ben, Winston-Salem, NC

Well, that's a huge generalisation, Ben! It ain't mine, my sister's, my friends etc etc!! So what makes you ssay that?
Eloise - London, England
The history of Elton John's music in my life has been, to say the least, profound. On one of our first "dates" my wife and I sang most of Yellow Brick Road - the album. There are many other instances of his music in my life, but the most memorable:
A few moments after my daughter Lauren was delivered, as my wife and I looked with the most profound amazmement either of us would ever know softly, over the PA we heard this song playing. For second time in the space of a few minutes, neiter of us could speak. But at that point words weren't necessary.
I'm sorry that Bernie feels so stronly about the song, but sadly, that's the way thisgs sometimes work out. He is one of poets of our age. God bless him.
-Charles
Charles - Bronxville, Ny
I'm with you, Natalie. That truly is the best use of this song. I love that movie so much. It made me realise waht true music is all aobut, man. It was deep.Kevin - Campbell River, Canada
looove this song, makes me happy :) fave part in almost famous, best film of all timeNatalie - Manchester, England
I actually met Bernie Taupin at a performance by his side band, "Farm Dog," at a club called "The Birchmere" in 1998. He signed CDs after the performance. I brought a "Madman Across the Water" CD for his signature, and he STRONGLY refused to sign near, or talk about "Tiny Dancer..." (translation: the breakup must have been BAD!)

Yup, true story!
Ray - Newport, Ri
John Frusciante, guitarist of the Red Hot Chili Peppers once sang it on the Pink Pop festival(Holland)in 1990.Brigit - Krommenie, Netherlands
I am absolutely crazy about this song! It keeps my spirits up. God Bless Elton John for his talent and him using it to spread around the joy!
Almost Famous is a must see; I encourage you to see it.
Natalie Lyons - Knoxville, Tn
this song means a lot to me my dad used to sing it to me when i was a lil girl and it is takin forever for me to get it on cdChristina - Rancho , Ca
Ben Folds covers this song on "Ben Folds Live"Nicole - Apple Valley, Mn
Love this song but then I love the whole Madman across the Water Album. Very inspirational.John - Albury, Nsw, Australia
As a rule of thumb, this is every woman's favorite Elton John song.Ben - Winston-salem, Nc
My friends and I always sing ..Count the head lice on the highway..Geo - Eugene, Or
When I was younger, my father told me that he originally wrote this song. He claims that the real lyrics were, "Hold me Closer, Tony Danza"! When I told this to one of my friends, she thought it was hilarious!Annabelle - Eugene, Or
Jenny, that's exactly what i'd always thought.Cadence - Sacramento, Ca
I once heard that this song was about a penis...
Think about it. Think about it.
Josh - Santa Barbara, Ca
My favourite bit in Almost Famous is when the group start singing this on the bus. Such a beautiful song and I think it shows the power of music.Geoff - Adelaide, Australia
The song is about the women of Los AngelesJoseph - Manteca, Ca
Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters performed the song on a US celebrity chat show, starting "Tiny Dancer.....two words that strike a chord in the heart of every sensitive 32 year old man in the country". He does it well.Becky - Berkshire, England
On "Friends", Phoebe thinks that the chorus of this song says "Hold me close young Tony Danza"Jenny - Sussex, Nj