The lyricist behind many of Elton John's most memorable pop hits, Bernie Taupin was born May 22, 1950, in rural Lincolnshire, England.
The product of a farming family, his primary musical influence was the gunfighter ballads of Marty Robbins, marking the beginning of a lifelong fascination with the American west that surfaced as a recurring theme throughout his work as a songwriter. Taupin quit school at 16 to accept a job with a local newspaper, followed by a stint at a chicken ranch; at 17, he responded to a Liberty Records advertisement seeking new talent and although the label turned Taupin down, A&R exec Ray Williams suggested he team with aspiring singer/composer Reg Dwight, who months later adopted the name Elton John. Although the duo soon began writing for Dick James Music, they originally collaborated solely by mail and did not meet face-to-face until nearly half a year into their partnership; early efforts were recorded by pop singers, including Lulu, Roger Cook, and Brian Keith, and although John recorded several of their songs as a solo act as well, his 1969 debut LP Empty Sky failed to generate much interest.
John's self-titled 1970 album was the turning point; highlighted by the classic "Your Song," it made the singer an emerging superstar and although Taupin received comparatively little notice for his efforts, that same year he cut an eponymous solo LP of his own. Although John's 1971 record Tumbleweed Connection reflected the outlaw themes that so fascinated Taupin as a boy, 1972's Honky Chateau was the team's true commercial breakthrough, topping the American charts on the strength of the smash hits "Honky Cat" and "Rocket Man." Throughout the mid-'70s, John reeled off a remarkable series of Top Ten hits, including "Crocodile Rock," "Daniel," "Bennie and the Jets," "The Bitch Is Back," and "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road"; the first album ever to enter the American charts at number one, 1975's Captain Fantastic & the Brown Dirt Cowboy featured Taupin's most autobiographical lyrics to date and launched the chart-topping "Philadelphia Freedom." However, relations between he and John were becoming increasingly strained and in the wake of 1976's Blue Moves, the singer began working with other lyricists.
Apart from John, Taupin relocated to Los Angeles and in 1980 issued his third solo album, He Who Rides the Tiger; that same year, he and the singer reunited for 21 at 33, although John continued collaborating with other writers as well. 1983's Too Low for Zero restored their partnership in full, yielding the hits "I'm Still Standing" and "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues." Still, despite subsequent chart entries like "Sad Songs (Say So Much)," "Nikita," and "Sacrifice," the duo's later work largely failed to recapture the spark of their creative peak. Independent of John, Taupin returned to the top of the charts in 1985 as the co-author of the Starship smash "We Built This City," and two years later issued the solo Tribe; in 1988, he also published his memoir, A Cradle of Haloes: Sketches of a Childhood. Taupin subsequently formed the Farm Dogs, a roots music-inspired group that issued a self-titled debut album in 1986. In the wake of Princess Diana's death the following year, he also rewrote the lyrics of the perennial "Candle in the Wind" in her honor; performed by John at the royal's funeral, the resulting single became one of the biggest chart hits of all time. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi