Birth and childhoodEdit
Bernard John "Bernie" Taupin was born at Flatters, a farm house, between the village of Anwick and the town of Sleaford in the southern part of Lincolnshire, England. His father was employed as a stockman by a large farm estate, near the town of Market Rasen. Taupin and his older brother Tony attended Catholic school in Sleaford, continuing there after the family was relocated to the nearby village of Rowston, where they lived in Rowston Manor, a significant step up after a home with no electricity.
While Taupin was still a boy, his father decided to try his hand at independent farming, and the family relocated again, this time to a run-down property called Maltkiln Farm.  in the north-Lincolnshire village of Owmby-by-Spital. Here a third brother, Kit, was born 11 years junior to Bernie. The family attended Holy Rood Catholic Church in the town of Market Rasen, where Bernie and Tony served as altar boys. Bernie attended school at Market Rasen Secondary Modern. Unlike his older brother, he was not a diligent student, although he showed an early flair for writing. At 15 he dropped out of school. He spent his teenage years hanging out with friends, hitchhiking the country roads to attend youth club dances in the surrounding villages, playing snooker in the Aston Arms Pub in Market Rasen, and drinking well before the legal age of eighteen. He had worked at several part-time, dead-end jobs when, at the age of 17, he answered an advertisement that led to his collaboration with Elton John.
Taupin's mother and his maternal grandfather "Poppy" taught him an appreciation for nature and for literature (particular narrative poetry), both of which inform his early lyrics. Imagery from his Catholic upbringing is found in songs such as "Sixty Years On", "Burn Down the Mission", "Tower of Babel", "Ticking", and "Where to Now St. Peter?" while the imagery of his rural upbringing is found in early lyrics such as "Lady, What's Tomorrow?", "Your Song", and "Country Comfort." This unique blend of influences gave Taupin's early lyrics a nostalgic romanticism that fit perfectly with the hippie sensibilities of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Taupin sometimes wrote about specific places in Lincolnshire. For example, "Grimsby" on Caribou was a tongue-in-cheek tribute to a nearby port town often visited by Taupin and his friends. More famously, "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" was inspired by Taupin's experiences in the dance halls and pubs of his youth. More often he wrote in more general autobiographical terms, as in his reference to hitching rides home in "Country Comfort." These autobiographical references to his rural upbringing continued after his departure for London and a life in show business, with songs such as "Honky Cat" and "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," in which he thinks about "going back to my plough."
But the most important influence of Taupin's childhood was his intense interest in the American Old West. This topic imbues his lyrics from the 1970 Tumbleweed Connection album to recent songs like 2001's "This Train Don't Stop There Anymore." When he and Elton decided to write an autobiographical album in 1975, Taupin dubbed himself "The Brown Dirt Cowboy" in contrast to Elton's "Captain Fantastic".
Collaboration with Elton JohnEdit
In 1967, he answered an advertisement for talent placed in the New Musical Express by Liberty records A&R man Ray Williams. Thus began the famous and well-loved songwriting team of Elton John and Bernie Taupin. The pair have collaborated on more than 30 albums to date. The team took some time off from each other for a while between 1977 and 1979, while Taupin worked with other songwriters, and John worked with other lyricists, including Gary Osborne and Tom Robinson. (The 1978 single-only A-side "Ego" was their only collaboration of note during the period, though John-Taupin b-sides such as "Lovesick" and "I Cry at Night" were issued with the respective singles "Song For Guy" and "Part-time Love" from the album "A Single Man.")
John and Taupin resumed writing together on (at first) an occasional basis in 1980, with Taupin contributing only three or four lyrics each on albums such as "The Fox", "21 at 33" and "Jump Up!". However, by 1983's "Too Low For Zero," the two renewed their partnership on a full-time basis, and from that point forward Taupin was again John's primary lyricist, a position he holds to this day. (John often uses other lyricists on specific theatrical or film projects, such as 1993's The Lion King which featured lyrics by Tim Rice, but the majority of lyrics on most of Elton's regular albums, with few exceptions, are by Taupin.)
Taupin's lyrics include such memorable tunes as "Rocket Man", "Tiny Dancer", "Candle in the Wind", "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me", "Daniel", and 1970's "Your Song", their first hit. Hits in the 1980s include "I'm Still Standing," "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues" and "Sad Songs (Say So Much)." In the 1990s, Taupin and John had more hits, including "The One," "Simple Life," "The Last Song" and "Believe." In 1997, Taupin rewrote his lyrics for "Candle in the Wind" to memorialize Diana, Princess of Wales, shortly after her tragic death in a car accident on Aug. 31 of that year. The commemorative single John recorded immediately after the song's only public performance (by John) at Princess Diana's funeral went on to become the biggest-selling single of all time. The single was produced and arranged by Beatles legend George Martin. (John and Taupin took no artist or songwriter royalties from the record. All the proceeds went to the Princess Diana Memorial Fund charity organization.)
The 1991 film documentary Two Rooms described the John/Taupin writing style, which involves Taupin writing the lyrics on his own and John then putting them to music, with no further interaction between the two. This however was a process that was to change considerably over the years as their collaborations became far more intimate in their creation.
Taupin and John had their first Broadway musical open in March 2006 with Lestat: The Musical.
Taupin wrote lyrics for 10 songs (and an 11th completed non-album track, "Across the River Thames") for John's 2006 album The Captain & The Kid (sequel to Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy) and appeared on the cover with him for the first time marking their 40th anniversary of working together. ("Across the River Thames" was issued as an internet-only download as a bonus with certain editions of "The Captain and the Kid.")
On 25 March 2007, Taupin made a surprise appearance at John's 60th birthday celebration at Madison Square Garden, briefly discussing their 40-year songwriting partnership. Of Taupin's importance to their careers, as recorded on the "Elton 60: Live at Madison Square Garden" DVD, John told the audience that without Taupin there probably wouldn't be an Elton John as the public has come to know him.
Taupin and John are currently working on their next studio album. It is expected to be due out sometime in 2009. They have also collaborated on five original songs for the upcoming Disney movie Gnomeo and Juliet, due out in 2010.
Collaboration with other artistsEdit
In addition to writing for Elton John, Taupin has also written lyrics for use by other composers, with notable successes including "We Built This City", which was recorded by Starship, and "These Dreams", recorded by Heart. In 1978, he co-wrote the album From the Inside with Alice Cooper.
In 2002, Willie Nelson and Kid Rock recorded "Last Stand in Open Country" for Nelson's album The Great Divide. The song was the title track of the first album from Taupin's band Farm Dogs (see below). Nelson's album included two other Taupin songs, "This Face" and "Mendocino County Line." The latter song, a duet between Nelson and Lee Ann Womack, was made into a video and released as the album's first single. The song won the 2003 Grammy for best vocal collaboration in country music.
In 2005, he co-wrote the title track to What I Really Want For Christmas with Brian Wilson for his first seasonal album.
Works as a performerEdit
With Farm DogsEdit
In 1971, Taupin recorded a spoken-word album entitled Taupin, in which he recites some of his early poems against a background of impromptu, sitar-heavy music created by some members of Elton's band, including Davey Johnstone and Caleb Quaye. Side One is entitled "Child" and contains poems about his early childhood in southern Lincolnshire. The first poem, "The Greatest Discovery," which looks at his birth from the perspective of his older brother Tony, was also set to music by Elton John and included on the Elton John (album). There are poems about Taupin's first two childhood homes, Flatters and Rowston Manor, and others about his relationship with his brother and grandfather. Side Two includes a variety of poems of varying obscurity, from a marionette telling her own story to a rat catcher who falls victim to his prey. While the lyrics to Side One provide interesting insights into Taupin's childhood, the album makes for a tedious listening experience, and Taupin stated in interviews that he wasn't pleased with the results.
In 1980, Taupin recorded his first album as a singer, He Who Rides the Tiger. Although he demonstrated a more-than-adequate vocal ability, the album failed to make a dent in the charts. Taupin later suggested in interviews that he didn't have the creative control he would have liked over the album.
In 1987, he recorded another album entitled Tribe. The songs were co-written with Martin Page. "Citizen Jane" and "Friend of the Flag" were released as singles. Videos of both singles featured Rene Russo, the sister of Toni, his wife at that time.
In 1996, Taupin pulled together a band called Farm Dogs, whose two albums were conscious (and successful) throwbacks to the grittier, earthier sound of Tumbleweed Connection. While Taupin wrote the lyrics, the music was a collaborative effort among the band members. Their first album, 1996's Last Stand in Open Country, received critical praise but little airplay. As mentioned above, the title track was later recorded by Willie Nelson and Kid Rock for Nelson's 2002 album The Great Divide.
In 1998, Farm Dogs released its second and final album, Immigrant Sons. The album was unsuccessful despite a tour of small clubs across America.
In 1973, Taupin collected all his lyrics up through the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album into a book entitled Bernie Taupin: The One Who Writes the Words for Elton John. In addition to the lyrics from the albums, this book contained the lyrics to all the single b-sides, various rarities, and Taupin's 1970 spoken-word album. The songs are illustrated by various artists, friends, and celebrity guests such as John Lennon and Joni Mitchell. The book is in black & white except for the cover.
In 1977, Taupin collaborated with rock photographer David Nutter on "It's A Little Bit Funny," adding text and helping chronicle Elton John's year-long "Louder Than Concorde, But Not Quite As Pretty" world concert tour. The now-collectible book was published in hard and soft cover editions by Penguin Books. It collects the better part of one year's worth of personal adventures and memories of Elton and the band, aboard his private plane, on the beaches of Barbados, at backstage gatherings and in some quieter off-stage moments with friends (including some famous faces that Elton and Bernie met and palled around with in their travels).
In 1988, Taupin published an autobiography of his childhood entitled A Cradle of Haloes: Sketches of a Childhood. The book was released only in England. It tells the tale of a childhood fueled by fantasy in rural Lincolnshire in the 1950s and 1960s, ending in 1969 as Taupin gets on the train to seek his fortune in London.
In 1991, Taupin self-published a book of poems called The Devil at High Noon.
In 1994, Taupin's lyrics up through the Made In England album were collected into a hardcover book entitled Elton John & Bernie Taupin: The Complete Lyrics, published by Hyperion. However, it doesn't appear that Taupin was intimately involved in this project, as it contains multiple misspellings and outright misrenderings of the lyrics. It is also missing some of the rarities and b-sides found in the earlier collection. As with the 1973 collection, the songs are illustrated by various artists, this time in full color throughout.
Taupin married his girlfriend Maxine Feibelman in 1971. The two divorced in 1976 and Taupin remarried in 1979 to Toni Lynn Russo, sister of actress Rene Russo. He and Russo divorced in 1991. Taupin then married Stephanie Haymes on 21 August 1993 and has two stepdaughters with her. They divorced in 1998. Taupin is now married to Heather Lynn Hodgins Kidd, whom he wed 27 March 2004 and has fathered two daughters, Charley Indiana and Georgey Devon.
Taupin has lived his dream of being a "Brown Dirt Cowboy." He moved to southern California with then-wife Maxine in the mid-1970s and he has been living since the 1980s on a working ranch north of Los Angeles near Santa Ynez, California, raising cutting horses.
In the early 2000s, Taupin publicly displayed some of his paintings. He co-owned a PBR bucking bull named Little Yellow Jacket, which was recently retired as an unprecedented three-time world champion. He is a vocal supporter of gay rights.
- ↑ Flatters Farmhouse - On This Very Spot
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Elton John, Philip Norman, Fireside, 1991
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 A Cradle of Haloes, Bernie Taupin, Aurum Press, 1988
- ↑ Maltkiln Farm (former site) - On This Very Spot
- ↑ Holy Rood Catholic Church - On This Very Spot
- ↑ Aston Arms Pub - On This Very Spot
- ↑ Bernie Taupin: The One Who Writes the Words for Elton John, Bernie Taupin, Jonathan Cape, 1973
- ↑ A Conversation with Elton John and Bernie Taupin, Paul Gambaccini, Flash Books, 1974
- ↑ http://www.farmdogs.com/
- ↑ Market Rasen Today: News, Sport, Jobs, Property, Cars, Entertainments & More