Skyline Pigeon

"Skyline Pigeon" is a ballad composed and performed by English musician Elton John with lyrics by Bernie Taupin. It is the eighth track on his first album, Empty Sky. It was originally released by Guy Darrell and Roger James Cooke simultaneously as a single in August 1968.[1][2][3]

"Skyline Pigeon"
Song by Elton John
from the album Empty Sky
  • 3 June 1969 (UK)
  • 26 March 1973 (US)
  • 21 March 1980 (US)
  • Original: DJM Studios, December 1968 – April 1969
  • Remake: Strawberry Studios, France, June 1972
GenreSoft rock, Country
  • 3:37 (1969)
  • 3:53 (1972)
Songwriter(s)Elton John, Bernie Taupin

Musical structureEdit

The original recording from the Empty Sky album has Elton John on harpsichord and organ. It is the only track on the album featuring only John and no other musicians. He wrote the song in the style of a hymn.

The lyrics of the song are metaphorical – describing a pigeon that is flying high and free having been released from a human hand.

1972 versionEdit

In 1972, John re-recorded the song with his band (Dee Murray, Nigel Olsson and Davey Johnstone) during the sessions for Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player. The new recording used piano instead of harpsichord, and strings and oboe arranged by Paul Buckmaster. Originally issued as the B-side of the hit single "Daniel", it first appeared on CD in 1988 as part of the DJM issue of the Lady Samantha compilation album, then a few years later in the US and abroad on the 1992 Mercury release Rare Masters, and as a bonus track on the 1995 reissue of Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player. The 1972 version of "Skyline Pigeon" appears again on the third CD of John's 2017 compilation box set Diamonds.

According to, the 1972 recording of "Skyline Pigeon" was particularly popular in Brazil, where it was used on the soundtrack of the television soap opera Carinhoso.[4]


"Skyline Pigeon" was played on the radio as early as 1968. It was the most popular song during the very early period of John's musical career, yet it was not released as a single. It is, however, the most performed live and best known track from the Empty Sky album. The song was performed live in various eras and venues throughout John's career, mainly in Britain, and frequently during his solo shows and pairings with the percussionist Ray Cooper. John has always said he regards "Skyline Pigeon" as one of the first "great" songs that he and Taupin wrote. John performed the song at the funeral of the AIDS victim and friend Ryan White in 1990 on a grand piano, although he played Roland Piano on tour and in the studio at the time.[5]

Apart from its earlier appearances on record, a live, solo piano version recorded at the Royal Festival Hall in London during summer 1974 was also included as the opening number on the "Here" side of the Here and There album in 1976, a place it retained in the 1995 2-CD expanded version remixed by the album's original producer, Gus Dudgeon. It was also released on Volume 1 of two limited-edition CDs recorded live in Madison Square Garden, as part of a series of solo performances John gave in October 1999. The song received a brief revival during a UK tour in 2009.

The 1972 version was a hit in Brazil. A live performance from 17 January 2009 was broadcast on TV along with the rest of an entire concert John performed in São Paulo, Brazil. Again in Brazil in 2011, he played the song during a concert at Rock in Rio in front of 150,000 people in Rio de Janeiro, on 23 September. During the 2013 tour he played the song again in São Paulo, on 27 February, and in Porto Alegre, on 5 March.[6]

A 1968 piano demo version of the song was included on CD 4: Rarities, Part Two of John's 2021 boxed set, Jewel Box.


Original version:

1972 version:

In popular cultureEdit

The original version, with its notable harpsichord, was used as the closing-credit music in the 2018 film The Favourite.

Cover versionsEdit

It was covered by Deep Feeling in 1970 (a band of which Guy Darrell was a member), Dana, Judith Durham, and Gene Pitney on his Pitney '75 album.[7]

A popular song in the Philippines, it was covered by several artists, notably Lani Misalucha on her Reminisce album.[8]


  1. ^ Buckley, Peter (2003). The Rough Guide to Rock. Rough Guides. p. 547. ISBN 9781843531050. Retrieved 29 March 2021 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ Doyle, Tom (21 March 2017). Captain Fantastic: Elton John's Stellar Trip Through the '70s. Random House. p. 29. ISBN 9781101884201. Retrieved 29 March 2021 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ Planer, Lindsay. "Skyline Pigeon". AllMusic. Retrieved 29 March 2021.
  4. ^ "Watch the New Video for 'Skyline Pigeon'". 27 December 2017. Retrieved 20 March 2021.
  5. ^ Claude Bernardin (1995). "Rocket Man: The Encyclopedia of Elton John". p. 191. Greenwood Press.
  6. ^ Greene, Andy (1 October 2015). "Flashback: Elton John Sings 'Skyline Pigeon' at Ryan White's Funeral". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 29 March 2021.
  7. ^ Hayward, Keith (2013). Tin Pan Alley: The Rise of Elton John. Soundcheck Books. p. 124. ISBN 9780957144200. Retrieved 29 March 2021 – via Google Books.
  8. ^ Dimaculangan, Jocelyn (11 August 2008). "Lani Misalucha asks Filipinos to "Reminisce" with her". Philippine Entertainment Portal. Retrieved 29 March 2021.