Elton John – “Daniel” Lyrics Meaning

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Written By Joanna Landrum

Joanna holds a BSc in English Literature and uses her expertise in literary analysis to uncover the deeper meaning of her favorite songs.

Elton John’s “Daniel” is a poignant song that dives into the complexities of relationships, particularly between siblings. Written by Elton John with lyrics by Bernie Taupin, the song is a narrative about a man saying farewell to his brother Daniel, who is leaving for Spain. The song explores themes of separation, longing, and understanding. Daniel is depicted as an older and wiser character, but also bears emotional scars, possibly from war or life’s hardships. The songwriter captures the bittersweet feeling of seeing a loved one go, while understanding it’s for their betterment. The song can be a metaphor for how people drift apart but still hold each other in their hearts.

Ready to dig into the rich layers of “Daniel”? Keep reading to explore the song’s lyrics and the story behind its creation.

“Daniel” Lyrics Meaning

“Daniel is traveling tonight on a plane
I can see the red tail lights heading for Spain
And I can see Daniel waving goodbye”Right from the start, the lyrics set up the song’s emotional core: separation. Daniel is heading for Spain, leaving behind someone who’s going to miss him deeply. Why is he going? We aren’t told directly, but Spain is portrayed as a place Daniel considers the “best” he’s ever seen.

“Oh Daniel my brother you are older than me
Do you still feel the pain of the scars that won’t heal?”
These lines reveal the depth of the relationship between the two siblings. Daniel, the older brother, carries with him emotional or physical scars, possibly indicative of war or another traumatic event. The song subtly questions the real cost of experience and wisdom, as Daniel may have paid for them through emotional or physical pain.

“Your eyes have died but you see more than I
Daniel you’re a star in the face of the sky”
Here we encounter an intriguing paradox. Despite the weariness or “death” in Daniel’s eyes, he’s depicted as seeing more than the narrator does. Daniel is described as a “star,” someone who stands out, someone who’s exceptional but distant, unattainable. This could mean that Daniel has gained an understanding of life that the narrator hasn’t yet grasped.

By chronicling these heartfelt goodbyes and complex emotions, Elton John and Bernie Taupin capture the essence of love, loss, and the indelible marks that relationships leave on us. The lines “Oh God it looks like Daniel, must be the clouds in my eyes” suggest that the narrator’s vision is clouded by emotion, adding another layer to this already multi-faceted song.

The Story Behind “Daniel”

Elton John and Bernie Taupin crafted “Daniel” during a highly productive and successful period in their careers. Released in 1973, the song was part of the “Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player” album. Bernie Taupin, the lyricist, was inspired by the Vietnam War and the toll it took on veterans returning home. Initially, the song had a cut third verse, which explicitly discussed Daniel being a Vietnam vet.

Taupin has said that he pictured Daniel as an older brother who returns from the Vietnam War, physically and emotionally scarred. The story then focuses on the younger brother’s feelings of love, longing, and the complicated emotion of seeing a loved one move on for their own good. It’s a layered song that delves into the mental state of both brothers, without offering any simple answers.

Elton John’s beautiful melody complements Taupin’s lyrics perfectly, amplifying the emotional weight of the song. The creative collaboration between the two artists is evident here as they balance story and emotion seamlessly. “Daniel” is a snapshot of a time in history, yes, but its themes of love, pain, and separation are timeless. The song remains a classic because it taps into emotions and experiences that resonate with people, even 50 years after its release.