What is Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” about? My friend says it’s some kind of woman-muse, but I think he’s singing to his penis.

“That’s great!” said a laughing Bernie Taupin, the song’s lyricist, when I reached him on the phone. “But I wouldn’t belittle myself so.” Your friend is closer to the truth, although Taupin emphasized that the song wasn’t about any one woman (particularly not his ex-wife, to whom the song is dedicated on Madman Across the Water.) “We came to California in the fall of 1970, and sunshine radiated from the populace,” he said. “I was trying to capture the spirit of that time, encapsulated by the women we met–especially at the clothes stores up and down the Strip in L.A. They were free spirits, sexy in hip-huggers and lacy blouses, and very ethereal, the way they moved. So different from what I’d been used to in England. And they all wanted to sew patches on your jeans. They’d mother you and sleep with you–it was the perfect Oedipal complex.” Why “tiny,” then? “Well, that’s poetic license, although they were all petite and lithe. And ‘Tiny Dancer’ sounds better than ‘Small Dancer,’ or ‘Little Dancer.'”

(Excerpted from the 2006 book Is Tiny Dancer Really Elton’s Little John?: Music’s Most Enduring Mysteries, Myths, and Rumors Revealed, published by Three Rivers Press, written by Gavin Edwards.)