I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. – Philippians 4:12
If there was ever a song and artist that was tailor made for these posts, it has to be the one and only, Sir Elton John and “Levon”.
So many of Elton’s songs have Biblical or religious references even as Elton has openly decried organized religion as “hateful”, declared that Jesus was just a “compassionate, super-intelligent gay man who understood human problems” and stated that he would “ban religion completely”.
Why then do so many of Elton’s songs have these religious overtones? Is it Bernie Taupin’s fault? Was he simply trying to be ironic? Or is it just a glimpse into Elton’s own conflicted soul?
Levon wears his war wound like a crown
He calls his child Jesus
‘Cause he likes the name
And he sends him to the finest school in town
Some say that Levon was chosen as the father’s name because it is NOVEL spelled backwards and that Elton believed the Bible to be simply another “good book”.
Levon likes his money
He makes a lot they say
Spend his days counting
In a garage by the motorway
One could even say that Levon (and Elton) were preoccupied with storing up treasures here on earth…as so many of us are. At this point in his career in 1972, “Madman Across The Water” was peaking on the American charts and certainly with this third album release, Elton was beginning to see considerable commercial success.
He was born a pauper to a pawn on a Christmas day
When the New York Times said God is dead and the war’s begun
Alvin Tostig has a son today
And he shall be Levon
And he shall be a good man
And he shall be Levon
In tradition with the family plan
Ah yes, Levon shall be a good man. Unlike his father. Just as Elton wanted to rebel against his own father’s Royal Air Force regimentation. Elton’s dad wanted him to go into banking. Imagine that!
Levon sells cartoon balloons in town
His family business thrives
Jesus blows up balloons all day
Sits on the porch swing watching them fly
It’s funny though, it’s been said that when Bernie Taupin was asked about the deeper meaning to “Levon”, he claimed to have had no idea at all when writing it. He said it was “just lines that came out that were interesting”.
And doesn’t this all speak to the ironies and inconsistencies in our own lives. I love Elton’s work immensely, though I disagree with many of the things he says and does. And the very religious beliefs I hold dear, clearly spell out a dim view of the gay lifestyle.
Elton disparages religion yet many of his songs are clearly influenced by religious beliefs and teachings. Could it be just another internal conflict? Elton’s life and sexuality certainly seem to be riddled with conflicts. In the 1960’s he was engaged to his record company secretary, Linda Woodrow. In 1976, he declared himself bisexual. In 1984, he married German recording engineer Renate Blauel and finally would up in civil union with his current partner, David Furnish.
Elton and David became the proud parents to a son (by surrogate) on Christmas day in 2010. And you guessed it…they named him Levon. (Actually his full name is Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John).
And Jesus, he wants to go to Venus
Leaving Levon far behind
Take a balloon and go sailing
While Levon, Levon slowly dies
No matter what Elton thinks about God, he has certainly been blessed with a talent beyond compare. His five decade long recording career has seen him sell over 300 million records, making him one of the best selling recording artists of all time. Such great abundance and yet suffering need are all tied up together in his life.
Ultimately, I think Elton is perfect proof of God’s perfect love. And Jesus may have died, but he died for all our sins and all mankind, including Elton. Even if he is a non-believer.
Well, it’s no big deal…Jesus is no stranger to a little “religious rejection”.
Watch the classic here: