The Silent Partner

Elton John's upright piano, c. 1910.
A-Day Birdcage Upright Piano, c.1910. 1

The collaboration between Elton John and Bernie Taupin is legendary, lasting from 1967 to the present day. And yet, little attention is given to their stalwart silent partner—the c.1910 A-Day Birdcage upright piano.

It is believed that the famous songwriting duo wrote over 100 tunes on this white piano, spanning the years of their first five albums. In the documentary “Elton John and Bernie Taupin Two Rooms,” Elton can be seen composing the song “Tiny Dancer” on it.

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Elton John Performance & Discussion of 'Tiny Dancer,' 1971. 2

The British filmmaker, Bryan Forbes, who in 1972 produced “Elton John and Bernie Taupin Say Goodbye to Norma Jean and Other Things,” developed a close friendship between the two songwriters. In appreciation for his dedication to the documentary (it took over a year to make), John and Taupin gave him their white piano, with the following inscription:

To Bryan and Nanette, Sarah and Emma, with love—Elton John.
Description from Heritage Auctions 3
Within this piano lays the ghost of a hundred songs, take care of them, they love you. God Bless from the one who writes the words, Bernie Taupin.
Description from Heritage Auctions 4

Some twenty years later, Elton revisited the piano and added another inscription to the inside lift:

May 1991 - 19 years later - 3 children - 1 hysterectomy - 25 lawsuits - 1 Marriage - 751 cats and Countless Boyfriends … Send you both my Love, Elton John.
Description from Heritage Auctions 5

Forbes donated the piano to an auction house and it eventually ended up at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland, Ohio.

In 2004 it was sold at auction, and again more recently in April 2014 at the “Icons of 20th Century Music” Auction for $164,500.

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Page Sources

Shoulder-synth.  "Elton John Piano, taken by Cantos Music Foundation."  Photograph.  Commons Wikimedia.  Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 18 Sept. 2006.  Web.  26 Sept. 2015.  GFDL, and CC BY-SA 3.0.
bdpittman85.  “Elton John – ‘Tiny Dancer’ Live in 1971.”  Online Video Clip.  YouTube.  YouTube, 28 Oct. 2010.  Web.  26 Sept. 2015.  Standard YouTube License.
"Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s Historic Songwriting Piano."  Entertainment.HA.  Heritage Auctions, n.d.  Web.  21 Aug. 2015.
Additional References:
  • "Elton John’s Piano Sells for $164,500."  The Associated Press.  19 April 2004.  USA Today 30.  Web.  21 Aug. 2015.
  • Walne, Toby.  "Five Famous Pianos That Have Leapt in Value."  Telegraph.  Telegraph Media Group Limited, 2 April 2013.  Web.  21 Aug. 2015.
  • 605 Icons of 20th Century Music Autograph Auction Catalog.  Dallas: Heritage Galleries, 2004.  Google Books.  Web.  21 Aug. 2015.