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Don't Go Breaking My Heart - Elton John and Kiki Dee
It sounds terribly robotized, but it’s the way we’ve always worked,” said Bernie Taupin. “I totally write the whole lyric first, and then just take it to him and say, ‘Here,’ you know. And he sits down at the piano and works around it. It’s not the old two-people-at-the-piano, hammering out songs, going ‘Moon and June, silver spoon,’ and sitting there, working together. It’s not that sort of established way of writing at all. It’s very methodical. It’s ‘Here, this is my bit, you do your bit.’ And it works out. We could never sit at the piano and write together. It would be impossible. We’d drive each other mad.
“Well, we were in Barbados for Christmas, and he came to me and said, ‘I really want to write something uptempo, like a disco soul thing.’ So I went upstairs and started banging away on the typewriter. In five minutes I’d done something, came downstairs, and just gave it to him. In the next five minutes, he finished it, and it was great. It was just one of those things that sparked off immediately. As soon as he played it, I said, “Well, that’s gonna be the next single. That’s a hit.'”
What Elton and Bernie had come up with was “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” and both agreed it was a special number. Elton then suggested recording it as a duet, with his favorite female singer, Kiki Dee.
Kiki, whom Elton said “has one of the greatest voices of all time,” was the first artist signed to his Rocket Records label. Born Pauline Matthews in Bradford, England, she had been given her strange stage name in the mid-sixties. “It was a time when everything was kinky or kooky,” she explained. “I was told they had to call me something unusual if they were going to make me a star. I said, ‘Call me anything you like. I just want to sign a recording contract.'”
Many years and many labels later, Kiki finally had a hit in 1974, the title track from her album I’ve Got the Music in Me, on Rocket. However, nearly two years had passed since then, and Elton felt his protege needed a second boost.
He called her and explained his idea for a song. She was more than willing, and met him in the studio. Elton actually taught her the tune during the recording process. This added to its spontaneity, and, in Kiki’s words, made it “a whole lot of fun.”
“Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” took off early in July 1976, and by August, was America’s favorite Top 40 single. It hung around for nearly five months, becoming the biggest hit yet for either Kiki or Elton John.
By that point, Elton had sold over forty-two million albums and eighteen million singles throughout the world. Ten of his albums had gone over the million mark in the U.S. alone, and before the decade was out, his sales were to top one hundred million. The magnitude of this success was not lost on Elton or his lyricist, Bernie Taupin.
“The thing that I always say about our records, our music, our songs,” said Bernie, “is that I’m happy that they sell as many copies as they do. This is not purely because I’m making a lot of money. I just love the thought of knowing that millions of people are listening to what we’ve written. That’s a great feeling — I mean, a really great feeling. That’s what makes me happy.”