Song Thoughts: Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)

Driving in Korea,  I am always hyper-attentive as I navigate the Korean roadways: ever vigilant of tailgaters, mergers, traffic cameras, the always present crazy taxi drivers, and the there-for-no-reason speedbumps (they are everywhere…why?) But not today. Today I was solemnly distracted by the Elton John song “Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)”. 

Written in 1982 by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, the song was written as a tribute to John Lennon. It appears on Elton’s album Jump Up! It was a modest hit in the U.S. climbing as high as #13 on the Billboard 100. The empty garden? NYC’s Madison Square Garden, which was the venue for John Lennon’s last live performance in 1974 where he appeared on stage with Elton. The song is always an emotional ride, but a

few days ago






And I’ve been knocking but no one answers

And I’ve been knocking most of the day

Oh and I’ve been calling, oh hey hey Johnny

Can’t you come out to play

Unexpected unthoughts known  of a ghost that I knew just washed over me as the song played. Yes, I was listening to an Elton John playlist, but I just wasn’t expecting that song

It came out of nowhere and 

gut-punched me

A vile insect this Pancreatic cancer. So sneaky and so silent. I’ve been knocking and calling… knocking and calling…no answer. I’m crippled and dazed. Sadness washes over me. 

An empty space                      carved out of the loss of many ghosts. There are no replacements …only emptiness. And through my tears they all stand before me, but I don’t want to see or hear because the weight is too much to bear

So I keep driving and Elton keeps singing. “Can’t you come out to play in your empty garden?”

And I keep driving. 

And I keep going. 

And I remain. 

© 2023 Gregory Vessar. A Thousand Miles from Kansas. All Rights Reserved.

“Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny) by Elton John. 1982.
Categories: Family, Grief, MusicTags: , , ,
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