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Elton John on his Manila concert, John Lennon and partnerships

If Sir Elton John's setlist for his recent concert in Malaysia  is any indication, the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Saturday, Dec. 8, will reverberate with generation-defining hits.

The Rocket Man promised as much. "My show in the Philippines will include many of my biggest hit singles, as well as several well-known and much-loved album tracks," he said in an interview.

For his one-night-only Manila leg of his 40th Anniversary of the Rocket Man Tour, the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer certainly has truckloads to choose from: he has had more than 50 Top 40 hits, including his 1997 tribute to Princess Diana, "Candle in the Wind," which at more than 30 million copies is the biggest selling British and U.S. single ever.

A 45-year partnership

Credit should be shared with Bernie Taupin, of course, John's longtime lyrist. The pair is one of pop history's most enduring songwriting teams, having been collaborating since 1967.

Yet, there's this one intriguing detail in their work routine that music partners may find perplexing: they don't write together.

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In an interview he gave for his upcoming Manila concert, John said he and Bernie employ a songwriting routine that is essentially effective and therefore need not be altered.

"We have never written a song together and to this day we still compose in separate rooms," he said. "The way Bernie and I write songs has not changed since the very beginning. He gives me a selection of lyrics, I choose the ones that appeal to me as a musician, and I create the melody."

Lennon connection

Some of the team's most famous songs include "Rocket Man," "Your Song," "Daniel," "Skyline Pigeon,"  and "Candle in the Wind," originally written in the 70s as a tribute to Marilyn Monroe but whose lyrics was altered two decades later to pay homage to Princess Diana after her death in a car crash.

John and Taupin also collaborated on a tribute song for the late John Lennon called "Empty Garden (Hey, Hey Johnny)" and released in 1982. He and Lennon were close friends in the 70s and he even joined in recording the latter's "Whatever Gets You Thru The Night" single which eventually became a number one hit.

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Since the date of his concert at the Smart Araneta Coliseum falls on the 32nd death anniversary of Lennon's assassination, John was asked if he would do a tribute sequence for his friend come concert night.

"I sometimes perform ('Empty Garden') at my concerts but I have not yet decided if I will play it on December 8," he relied.

In the song, John sings Taupin's poignant lyrics: "He must have been a gardener that cared a lot / Who weeded out the tears and grew a good crop / And we are so amazed we're crippled and we're dazed / A gardener like that one no one can replace."

Lives 'unexpectedly colliding'

"Bernie's lyric writing has so many unique qualities that it is difficult to say which is the best, but I would say that his ability to employ words to create images with which so many people identify is peerless in contemporary song writing," he said.

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While he can't pinpoint why he and Taupin click, he shared, "I am just extremely thankful that it does. Our initial meeting took place in response to an advert in a music paper, and I am sure that we would never have met otherwise. So our partnership truly is the result of two lives unexpectedly colliding, leading to a deep friendship and a songwriting team which has transcended the decades."

In his Manila concert on Saturday, Dec. 8, Elton John will be backed by an 11-member band composed of two cellists and four back-up singers, along with a guitarist, bassist, keyboardist, drummer and percussionist.

For ticket information, go here.

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