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"Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)" is a song composed and performed by English musician Elton John, with lyrics by longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin. It originally appeared on John's 1982 album Jump Up!. The song is a tribute to John Lennon, who was shot and killed one and a half years earlier.
Lennon and John were good friends, and in 1974, Lennon appeared on John's single cover of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", the B-side of which was Lennon's "One Day at a Time". The pair later collaborated on "Whatever Gets You thru the Night" which appeared on Lennon's "Walls and Bridges" album. Lennon agreed to appear in concert with John if "Whatever Gets You thru the Night" became a #1 single, which it did. On Thanksgiving Day, 1974, Lennon and John performed these two songs along with "I Saw Her Standing There" at Madison Square Garden.
When Lennon's son Sean was born in 1975, John was made godfather.
After Lennon's death, John was concerned that a tribute song to the late Beatle would be "clumsy" - until he saw Taupin's lyrics. The song is titled "Empty Garden", as Lennon's last live performance was at Madison Square Garden (with John in 1974). It has been said that the line "Can't you come out to play?" is a reference to Lennon's song Dear Prudence.
John wrote and recorded an earlier instrumental tribute to Lennon, "The Man Who Never Died," which was issued as the B side of "Nikita" in 1985 and eventually included as a bonus track on the remastered reissue of Ice on Fire.
John rarely performs the song live, as it brings back many painful memories of Lennon's death. He said it during a concert on The 5th November, 1999 in kohl Center (USA). Notable performances include one at Madison Square Garden, with Lennon's widow Yoko and Elton's godson Sean in the audience. He also performed the song during his first appearance on the April 17, 1982 episode of Saturday Night Live hosted by Johnny Cash.
- Elton John - Yamaha electric piano, harpsichord, vocals
- Bernie Taupin - Lyrics
- Richie Zito - guitars
- Dee Murray - bass
- James Newton-Howard - synthesizers
- Jeff Porcaro - drums
It reached number 13 in the US singles chart.