Song of the Day #1,477: ‘The King Must Die’ – Elton John

I’d like to be a bigger Elton John fan. Silly thing to say, I know, because there’s certainly nothing holding me back from further exploring his catalog — nothing but the lack of time and the presence of hundreds of other artists vying for it.

John is one of those artists, like Prince, who has released so many albums that I can’t fathom being the kind of fan who owns everything he’s done. Bob Dylan and Elvis Costello are similarly prolific, but I started following them long ago and added many of their albums as they were released. With John I’d be starting almost from scratch.

I do own a handful of his albums, ones that the consensus suggests are his best: Madman Across the Water, Tumbleweed Connection, Honky Chateau and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. And I have another couple that I’ve borrowed from my brother-in-law but with which I’m not as familiar: Two Low For Zero and today’s featured album, Live in Australia.

I don’t normally listen to live recordings, and I haven’t spent too much time with this one. But the addition of a symphony orchestra adds an elegant touch to the hits and more obscure songs (like today’s SOTD).

No man’s a jester playing Shakespeare
Round your throne room floor
While the juggler’s act is danced upon
The crown that you once wore

And sooner or later
Everybody’s kingdom must end
And I’m so afraid your courtiers
Cannot be called best friends

Caesar’s had your troubles
Widows had to cry
While mercenaries in cloisters sing
And the king must die

Some men are better staying sailors
Take my word and go
But tell the ostler that his name was
The very first they chose

And if my hands are stained forever
And the altar should refuse me
Would you let me in, would you let me in, would you let me in
Should I cry sanctuary

No man’s a jester playing Shakespeare
Round your throne room floor
While the juggler’s act is danced upon
The crown that you once wore

The king is dead, the king is dead
The king is dead, the king is dead
Long live the king

3 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,477: ‘The King Must Die’ – Elton John

  1. Amy says:

    I do love this live album, not that I’ve listened to it straight through for over a decade. So many of Elton John’s greatest songs are part of the cultural landscape, so I feel as though I know what I “need” to know. When we saw him perform with Billy Joel many years ago, I knew every song he performed, so, while there are likely hidden gems on all of his albums, you’re probably doing just fine knowing the “greatest hits.” I’m sure if there’s another “Tiny Dancer” on one of those albums, it would have eventually emerged to be featured in a movie or covered by some singer on a reality show. One way or another, it would find its way to our ears I’m convinced.

  2. Dana says:

    While I may be a bigger fan of EJ overall than you are, I too have never bothered to buy every album. Part of that is I am not a completist as you strive to be but it also because John released a number of albums that we’re not well received, perhaps because he was stoned when making them or because he was phoning it in after much commercial success.

    I’ve always had a soft spot for this live album. It was recorded before he underwent surgery to remove nodes from his throat that had limited his vocal range. Still, the music is great and the addition of the symphony a nice touch. This particular track isn’t amongst my favorites, but tracks like “madman” are standouts.

  3. andrea katz says:

    I was crazy about Elton John when his first album came out and have not liked anything as much since although following albums met with much more commercial success. This song was part of that first album and if I could give you one suggestion it is to get that record, CD, or whatever it it now and listen to it because it has the most depth and artistic merit, in my opinion. Although there are wonderful songs which came later…Candle in the Wind, Benny and the Jets, the first was the best, for me.

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