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The John Lennon duet that Elton John called "one of the best songs ever written"


John Lennon and Elton John shared a special bond that they etched into the annals history when they performed together. However, their relationship goes deeper than just one singular collaboration, a friendship and bond that ultimately resulted in Lennon naming Elton as the godfather to his son, Sean.

Elton later likened their friendship to a “whirlwind romance”, which perfectly describes the breakneck pace that they descended from strangers to close compatriots. Furthermore, Lennon trusted Elton to such an intense degree that he made him part of his family, a move that says everything you need to know about the floods of love he had for his peer.

Although they didn’t grow up playing the circuit together – or even rise to fame in the same era – when their paths crossed, they both soon realised they were kindred spirits. Like countless other artists, The Beatles were a pivotal force in Elton John’s musical upbringing, and the group expanded his horizons. Little did he know, when he first listened to the band as a wide-eyed youngster, years later he’d later call John Lennon one of his closest friends, but life has a peculiar way of working.

Their friendship hit its height in 1974 when Lennon desperately needed somebody to rely upon during his infamous ‘lost weekend’. Lennon still had a burning desire to create art despite his life obliterating into smithereens behind the scenes, after leaving Yoko Ono for May Pang and diving headfirst into a hedonist’s utopia.

He asked for Elton’s assistance to help him on his new track, ‘Whatever Gets You Thru The Night’, which inadvertently led to Lennon returning to the stage. The duo made a wager that if it landed at number one, the former Beatle would face his fears and join Elton at Madison Square Garden to perform the song.

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Famously, ‘Whatever Gets You Thru The Night’ managed to provide Lennon with his debut number one single in the United States, and he later ate his words by staying true to his promise. The track is an immense source of pride for Elton, who later called it “one of the best songs ever written”.

Speaking to Sean Lennon in 2020, Elton looked back wistfully at the time he spent in the company of his departed friend. “That was the kind of wonderful two or three-year whirlwind romance we had, and it was such an important thing in my life, Sean,” he honestly reflected. “It just really helped me. It gave me so much confidence. Your dad was as kind and as generous and sweet, and we just hit it off immediately.”

“It was just, for me, it was a dream come true,” Elton told Sean. “We laughed so much because we talked about the 50s and 60s and where we grew up, you know, Round the Horne in England, the radio shows we liked, the songs we liked, we didn’t like, and your dad was just a fountain of knowledge.”

Their friendship was an unlikely one, but it helped resurrect Lennon’s life as that night at Madison Square Garden, he saw Yoko Ono for the first time in 18 months, leading to a reunion. Tragically, in a bittersweet twist, it also turned out to be the final public performance of Lennon’s career. 

Listen to footage from that historic evening below.