Song For Guy

Album: A Single Man (1978)
Charted: 4 110
Play Video

Songfacts®:

  • Although it has words - "Life... Isn't ever-y-thing" - this Elton John composition can rightly be classed as an instrumental. Guy Burchett was a messenger for Elton's label, Rocket Records. According to reviewer Claude Bernadin, Elton wrote and recorded this piece on the afternoon of Sunday, August 18, 1978. He had felt it was a song about death, and only learned the next day that Guy had been killed that very afternoon in a motorcycle accident.
  • The single was released November 28, 1978. Backed by "Love Sick," it was Elton's first UK top 5 hit for six years. In America, however, it was Elton's first single since "Step Into Christmas" not to chart. Elton's label, MCA Records, didn't do much promotion for the track, since getting instrumentals played on US radio was a steep climb. This tweaked off Elton, since it was a very important song for him, and he wanted to get an instrumental on the US charts. He says it was one of the reasons he left MCA, which he later realized was a mistake.
  • The album version runs to a lengthy 6 minutes 53 seconds, although there have been various edits including a CD single released in 2000, running to 3 minutes 52 seconds. This is the Sunstorm Radio Edit by Hurley and Todd; another version, the Sunstorm Mike Koglin Remix, also by Hurley and Todd, was likewise put out in 2000, and runs to 8 minutes 12 seconds.
  • "Song For Guy" shows an introspective, thoughtful Elton, obviously reflecting on his own mortality. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England, for all above
  • The A Single Man album was the first one he made without lyricist Bernie Taupin, which was tough for both parties, but a necessary break. "We never discussed it, we just let it go, and it hurt," Elton told Rolling Stone in 2013. "It hurt him and it hurt me, but we both had the resilience and the intelligence to know that if we didn't let each other write with other people, it would be the end of our relationship."

Comments: 11

  • Tim Scott from East YorkshireI'm not surprised that many comments on Song for Guy seem to avoid the clear and obvious sense of the lyric. Falsely terming it an 'instrumental' is one evasion. By 'Life isn't everything', EJ opines that staying alive isn't an absolute imperative. There are states of physical and mental illness which can make life unbearable and lead to a decision to end it. Personally, I think Song for Guy one of the most beautiful and mature of songs. It is EJ confronting his own mortality, and the universal truth of mortality. I admire his courage in writing and performing.
  • John M from West AustElton John has given me so much pleasure. I love his and Bernie Taupin music
  • Kevin from IrelandAlways thought it would be great if Elton would re-record it using the lyrics "Life.... Isn't ever in vain"
  • David C from Fareham, Hampshire, Uk.At the tender age of just achieved 68!, Song for Guy has been in my head for the last week, I have not played the piano for 21 years, yet I must now go and buy a piano and learn to play this wonderful music. Beyond that I was having similar thoughts to what I think Elton was having at the time, making it a strange haunting connection.... I had always missed the words at the end... but so relevant too me! Thankyou for this wonderful "Song for Guy"
  • Stephen from TexasIs it it me or does Suede’s Saturday Night sound similar to this song?
  • Peter from Vancouver, BcI always thought the words were “Life....is a temporary thing” I guess because they made so much sense considering the subject matter. Even if the vinyl cover says differently, it is one of many songs by John that I can listen to repeatedly and never tire.
  • Jonogrooveus Maximus, it isnt ‘life is a temporal thing’. It’s ‘life isn’t everything’. I’d send you a photo of the lyrics written on the inner vinyl cover, but I can’t send photos
  • JonoJason from Auckland, piano is a percussion instrument. Even though it has strings, the original motion is a striking of the keys, and to a lesser extent, the hammer striking the string(s)
  • Jason from Auckland...plus now I can only agree with the original poster... I think that IS what he's saying and it DOES make sense. In the context of the death of Guy which the lyrics are supposed to reflect, 'life isn't everything' makes you wonder what it would mean: it isn't that John is somehow trivialising life, surely, unless he means to do so in a zen sort of a sense? I always wondered about that ... but now we have a solution I like!
  • Jason from AucklandThis is a great song that occasionally gets slammed about the percussion 'letting it down'. I don't agree. It fits, and it makes it what it is. At worst, it can be forgiven for being one of the first with this kind of percussion (which would unfortunately, for this song, come to signify tackiness).
  • Groovus Maximus from Boston, MaAmazing, tragically underrated song... I can listen to it over and over, as it washes over me with melancholy, nostalgic waves of emotion, the simple bossa nova beat supporting layers of swirling piano & synthesizer -- genius! Great headphone track, truly one of Elton's best. I do believe, though, that the mantra Elton repeats at the end is "Life... is a temporary thing, is a temporary thing, is a temporary thing" (pronounced in that clipped sort of British way we Yanks all love!) -- makes more sense considering the subject matter, doesn't it?
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Francis Rossi of Status Quo

Francis Rossi of Status QuoSongwriter Interviews

Doubt led to drive for Francis, who still isn't sure why one of Status Quo's biggest hits is so beloved.

Music Video Director David Hogan

Music Video Director David HoganSong Writing

David talks about videos he made for Prince, Alabama, Big & Rich, Sheryl Crow, DMB, Melissa Etheridge and Sisters of Mercy.

Julian Lennon

Julian LennonSongwriter Interviews

Julian tells the stories behind his hits "Valotte" and "Too Late for Goodbyes," and fills us in on his many non-musical pursuits. Also: what MTV meant to his career.

Let Me Be Your Teddy Bear: Teddy Bears and Teddy Boys in Songs

Let Me Be Your Teddy Bear: Teddy Bears and Teddy Boys in SongsSong Writing

Elvis, Little Richard and Cheryl Cole have all sung about Teddy Bears, but there is also a terrifying Teddy song from 1932 and a touching trucker Teddy tune from 1976.

Deconstructing Doors Songs With The Author Of The Doors Examined

Deconstructing Doors Songs With The Author Of The Doors ExaminedSong Writing

Doors expert Jim Cherry, author of The Doors Examined, talks about some of their defining songs and exposes some Jim Morrison myths.

Strange Magnetics

Strange MagneticsSong Writing

How Bing Crosby, Les Paul, a US Army Signal Corps Officer, and the Nazis helped shape rock and Roll.