"Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" is a song written by English singer-songwriter Elton John and his lyricist Bernie Taupin. It was released as the first single from British musician Elton John's 1974 album Caribou; it was released that year during the latter half of May in the United Kingdom, and on 10 June in the United States. The song found further success in 1991 in a version recorded live as a duet between John and George Michael.

1974 Elton John versionEdit

Lyrics and musicEdit

In the song, Elton sings to someone he has helped and from whom he is now experiencing rejection:

I took a chance and changed your way of life but you misread my meaning when I met you closed the door and left me blinded by the light don't let the sun go down on me although I search myself, it's always someone else I see. I'd just allow a fragment of your life to wander free but losing everything is like the sun going down on me.

It was written with the other songs on the album during a ten-day period in January 1974.

The chorus of the song is supported with a horn arrangement by Del Newman, and features backing vocals of the Beach BoysCarl Wilson and Bruce Johnston, and Toni Tennille. Also on the song are percussion accents provided by Ray Cooper and a mellotron played by Dave Hentschel.</p>

"Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" charted on 1 June 1974 in Great Britain, making it to number 16 and reached the Top 10 after four weeks. On 10 August, the song's two-week stay at number 2 ended. In the U.S., it was certified Gold on 6 September 1974 by the RIAA. In Canada, it reached number 1, becoming his fifth chart topper in that country.[1]

Track listings[edit]Edit

  • May 1974 US/UK 7" vinyl single
  1. "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me"
  2. "Sick City"


Charts and certificationsEdit


Chart (1974) Peak


Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[2] 1
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[3] 30
Ireland (IRMA)[4] 17
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[5] 16
US BillboardHot 100[6] 2
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[7] 3


Region Certification Sales/shipments
United States (RIAA)[8] Gold 1,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone

1986/1987 live versionEdit

A live version recorded on 14 December 1986 appears on the Live in Australia with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra album. An edited version of this recording was released as a single in 1987 and also appears in the To Be Continued... box set.

1991 George Michael and Elton John versionEdit

"Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me"
Single by George Michael and Elton John
from the album Duets
Released 30 November 1991
Format Vinyl record (7" and 12"),audio cassetteCD
Recorded Wembley ArenaLondon, 23 March 1991
Genre Soft rock, piano rock
Length 5:47
Label ColumbiaEpic
Writer(s) Elton JohnBernie Taupin
Producer(s) George Michael
Certification Silver (BPI)

Gold (RIAA)

George Michael chronology
"Cowboys and Angels"


"Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me"


"Too Funky"


Elton John chronology
"Easier to Walk Away"


"Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me"


"The One"


As successful as the 1974 record had been, it was as a duet with George Michael that "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" had its greatest success. The pair had performed the song at the Live Aid concert in 1985. Recorded live at a concert at Wembley ArenaLondon on 23 March 1991 when Elton John was a surprise guest of George Michael, the duet became a massive hit on both sides of the Atlantic. It was released later that year and reached number one on the UK singles chart for two weeks in December 1991 and a single week on the Billboard Hot 100 in February 1992. The duet also spent two weeks at number one on the Adult Contemporary chart.[9]

The footage used for the music video of the song was taken from a "live" concert in Chicago with 70,000 fans. "The video was actually shot over several days," confirms Michael Pagnotta, George's publicist. "It was shot in an airline hangar in Burbank, California where George had been rehearsing; Elton came in for a night and they ran through the song a couple of times. Then the song was filmed in its entirety live in Chicago in the middle of October as part of that Cover to Cover tour, and when Elton came out from the wings, that place went crazy."[citation needed] It appears on John's Love Songs compilation.

The proceeds from the single were divided among 10 different charities for childrenAIDS and education.</p>

Track listings[edit]Edit

  • February 1991 UK 7" vinyl single/cassette
  1. "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me"
  2. "Song for Guy"
  • February 1991 UK 12" vinyl/CD single
  1. "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me"
  2. "Song for Guy"
  3. "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word"
  • November 1991 US/UK 7" vinyl/cassette single
  1. (John & George Michael) "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me"
  2. (Michael) "I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)"
  • November 1991 US/UK 12 vinyl single
  1. (John & George Michael) "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me"
  2. (Michael) "I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)"
  3. (Michael) "Last Christmas"
  • November 1991 US/UK compact disc single
  1. (John & George Michael) "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me"
  2. (Michael) "I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)"
  3. (Michael) "If You Were My Woman"
  4. (Michael) "Fantasy"
  • November 1991 US/UK compact disc single
  1. (John & George Michael) "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me"
  2. (Michael) "I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)"
  3. (Michael) "Freedom (Back to Reality Mix)"
  4. (Michael) "If You Were My Woman"

Chart and certifications[edit]Edit

Peak positions[edit]Edit

Chart (1991/92) Peak


Australia (ARIA)[10] 3
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[11] 2
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[12] 1
France (SNEP)[13] 1
Germany (Media Control Charts)[14] 4
Ireland (IRMA)[15] 2
Italy (FIMI)[16] 1
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[17] 1
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[18] 4
Norway (VG-lista)[19] 1
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[20] 2
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[21] 1
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[22] 1
US BillboardHot 100[23] 1
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[24] 1

End of year chartsEdit

End of year chart (1991) Position
UK Singles[25] 15
End of year chart (1992) Position
Austrian Singles[26] 7
Dutch Singles[27] 5
Swiss Singles[28] 7
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[29] 26


Region Certification Sales/shipments
France (SNEP)[30] Silver 125,000
United Kingdom (BPI)[31] Silver 200,000^
United States (RIAA)[32] Gold 500,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone

Cover versionsEdit

"Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" has been a popular song for other artists to perform or record as well. Jay Chattaway arranged this song into a jazz version, which Maynard Ferguson first performed in the 1970s show "The Mark of Jazz" with host Sid Mark.[33] This live version stems from around 1975; it was never recorded onto an album.

Roger Daltrey sang it for the 1987 soundtrack The Lost Boys.</p>

African-American Gospel group The Winans released a version of the song on their album Decisions in 1987.[34]

Gloria Estefan recorded her cover in 1989 and was included as a B-side to her "Here We Are" single, as well as the final track to international editions of her 1994 Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me album.

Jazz singer Oleta Adams recorded it on the 1991 tribute album Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin.

In 1991 CKBE-FM David Tyler.

Joe Cocker recorded his version of the song on his album Night Calls in 1991. Late 1990s punk cover specialty act Me First and the Gimme Gimmes also took it on. In December 2002 David Sneddon won the BBC's first Fame Academy show singing it. Sneddon also put his version of Elton's song on the B-side, which was number one in the UK Singles Chart in January 2003. In 2003, Vanessa Carlton performed the song during the Elton John Tribute Concert. Also in the 2000s, "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" has become a frequent selection of reality television singing contestants. The song is covered by the company Wavegroup for the music video game Karaoke Revolution Presents: American Idol. Blues singer Bettye LaVette covers the song on her 2010 album Interpretations: The British Songbook. Garth Brooks for the 2013 "Classic Rock" album in the "Blame It All on My Roots: Five Decades of Influences" compilation. <p style="margin-top:0.5em;margin-bottom:0.5em;line-height:20.363636016845703px;color:rgb(37,37,37);font-family:sans-serif;">Reggae singer Ed Robinson covered the song on his 2014 release "On Covers."

Chart successionsEdit

Original Elton John version

Preceded by

"Annie's Song" by John Denver

Canadian RPM number-one single

10–17 August 1974 (two weeks)

Succeeded by

"Feel Like Makin' Love" by Roberta Flack

<p style="margin-top:0.5em;line-height:20.363636016845703px;color:rgb(37,37,37);font-family:sans-serif;">George Michael/Elton John version

Preceded by

"Black Or White" by Michael Jackson

UK number one single

7 December 1991 – 14 December 1991 (2 weeks)

Succeeded by

"Bohemian Rhapsody/These Are the Days of Our Lives" by Queen

Norwegian VG-lista number one single

52/1991 – 5/1992 (7 weeks)

Succeeded by

"You" by Ten Sharp

Preceded by

"I Love Your Smile" by Shanice

Dutch Top 40 number one single

11 January 1992 – 29 February 1992 (8 weeks)

Succeeded by

"I Can't Dance" by Genesis

Preceded by

"Let's Talk About Sex" by Salt-n-Pepa

Swiss number one single

26 January 1992 – 1 March 1992 (6 weeks)

Succeeded by

"Das Boot" by U96

Preceded by

"All 4 Love" by Color Me Badd

US Billboard Hot 100 number one single

1 February 1992 (1 week)

Succeeded by

"I'm Too Sexy" by Right Said Fred

Preceded by

"Can't Let Go" by Mariah Carey

US Billboard Adult Contemporary number-one single

8–15 February 1992

Succeeded by

"What Becomes of the Brokenhearted" by Paul Young

Preceded by

"Black or White" by Michael Jackson

Eurochart Hot 100 number one single

8 February 1992 – 28 March 1992 (8 weeks)

Succeeded by

"To Be with You" by Mr. Big

Preceded by

"Qui a le droit... (live)" by Patrick Bruel

French SNEP number one single

22 February 1992 – 4 April 1992 (7 weeks)

Succeeded by

"You" by Ten Sharp

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