Border Song

Album: Elton John (1970)
Charted: 92
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Songfacts®:

  • Also known as "Holy Moses," this gospel-inflected song was written by the fledgling team of Elton John and Bernie Taupin; it was produced by Gus Dudgeon. Released as the first single from Elton's second album, it spent one week on the Hot 100, reaching #92 in August 1970. For the next 25 years, Elton had a song on the chart every year, starting with with his next single, "Your Song," which propelled him to stardom when it went to #8 in 1971.
  • In the 1975 publication A Conversation with Elton John and Bernie Taupin, by Paul Gambaccini, Elton said he wrote the last verse because it was only two verses long, and needed a third. His contribution was "very mundane" he added. Gambacinni asked: "Is that the only verse of a song you've written?" To which Elton replied: "Oh, yes."

    This is not quite true; Elton wrote songs on his own before he met Bernie but was never satisfied with his lyrics.
  • In the same book, when it was pointed out that some people have suggested "Border Song" is anti-Semitic, Bernie laughed: "Don't ask me why, I don't know. Most of my friends are Jewish. I married one." He did indeed, and his first wife was the inspiration for the song "Tiny Dancer." A quarter of a century later, Elton had a more plausible explanation for the song's inspiration. In His Song: The Musical Journey of Elton John, he told Elizabeth Rosenthal it was about the alienation confirmed country boy Bernie felt when he was in London. The same alienation inspired him to pen the words to "Tell Me When The Whistle Blows" from the 1975 Captain Fantastic album.
  • Aretha Franklin covered this, bringing her distinctive spiritual feel to the song. Her version went to #37 US in December 1970, four months after Elton's original charted. Aretha's cover was an early indication of how formidable the Elton John/Bernie Taupin songwriting team would be. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England, for all above
  • Elton John was the singer's second album, and it was a huge leap forward from his first effort Empty Sky. Speaking with Rolling Stone in 2011, Elton said: "I'd finally found my own voice, and the seismic change was happening in Bernie's lyrics. And recording Elton John was a terrifying step, because I had to play live with an orchestra, and we had a £5,000 budget, so we had to do three tracks in the morning and three in the afternoon. I was really frightened, I didn't want to mess up and that steeled me. It gave me great fortitude for the rest of my life."
  • Christopher Jackson from the Broadway hit Hamilton did a spoken-word performance of this song with Valerie Simpson on piano for the 2018 tribute concert Elton John: I'm Still Standing.
  • Bernie Taupin explained Elton John's lyrical contribution to The Mail on Sunday's Event magazine: "I wasn't around, so he wrote the last two lines. 'There's a man over there. What's his color I don't care,' which in retrospect is pretty obvious."
  • Shawn Mullins recorded "Border Song" as a duet with Elton John in 2000 when both were working out of the same Atlanta studio owned by Ed Roland of Collective Soul. After Roland introduced them, Mullins boldly suggested the duet, and to his surprise, Elton agreed.

    Getting the song released was a lot harder; originally slated for Mullins' 2000 album Beneath The Velvet Sun, it didn't appear until 2003 on his compilation album The Essential Shawn Mullins.

Comments: 6

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn August 15th 1970, Elton John performed "Border Song" at the Yorkshire Folk, Blues, & Jazz Festival at the Krumlin Barkisland Grounds in Halifax, West Yorkshire, England...
    Across the pond in the U.S.A. the song was in its first week on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #93; two days later it would peak at #92 {for 1 weeks} and it stayed on the chart for five weeks*...
    Later in 1970 on November 15th Aretha Franklin's covered version of the song entered the Top 100 at position #74; four weeks later on December 13th it would peak at #37 {for 2 weeks} and would spent seven weeks on the chart...
    * For three of the five weeks that Elton's version was on the Top 100, it was at #93.
  • Sandy from Enterprise, FlA very catchy, fun and yet inspiring song--all at once. So typical of good Elton John-Bernie Taupin collaborations from the old days
  • Jorge from Sunrise, FlDiana Krall does a cover in her live shows
  • Adrian from Gettysburg, PaI love the universal third verse Elton wrote for this song. It's certainly not the best lyrics ever written, but I would have been curious to see the results had he chosen to write more.
  • Charles from Charlotte, NcApparently some people take offense to "Holy Moses" which sounds silly!
  • Jon from North Haven, CtHow could "Border Song" be considered anti-Semitic? I'm Jewish and I love this song.
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