Why Did Elton John Not Work with Bernie on The Lion King?

When Elton John got the opportunity to work on Disney’s 1994 animated movie The Lion King, he chose to work with lyricist Tim Rice instead of his long-standing partner Bernie Taupin. But why did Elton John not work with Bernie on the Lion King?

Elton John didn’t work with Bernie Taupin on The Lion King as lyricist Tim Rice was hired first and asked Elton to work with him as his normal co-writer Alan Menken was unavailable.

Tim recalled inspiring John to do the film, saying:

“When you get established, and you’re older, people get afraid to ask you to do things. Besides, A pop star of that magnitude had never lent his name to a Disney project.”

But it wasn’t tough to convince John to do the movie. They began working back and forth in the studios and wrote five songs for The Lion King, three of which got nominated for the Academy Awards.

Could it have been possible that John and Bernie’s relationship began souring when John decided to work alone for the movie? Did John and Taupin ever get back together?

Let’s find out.

Elton Bernie Lion King lg

Who wrote the lyrics for The Lion King songs?

Tim Rice is the lyricist behind the 5 songs with lyrics in The Lion King. The remaining songs were instrumentals written by Hans Zimmer.

The Lion King is one of the longest and highest-grossing movies that keep inspiring generations.

Lyricist Tim Rice recounts the experience as joyful “as Elton had never worked for an animated movie before”, but he had enough Broadway experience.

He felt he wanted to give the movie a “rock presence” and “Elton John made perfect sense”.

But The Lion King wasn’t the first time Rice collaborated with John. As per Ultimateclassicrock, Rice has co-written “Legal Boys” for John’s 1982 album Jump Up. I have added the link if you want to gather more information on the album.

So, when John agreed to work on the movie, the pair joined the whirlwind process soon. The experience resulted in continuing to experiment with new pop sounds and drenching into Disney’s spirit.

Here are the songs Tim Rice worked on in collaboration with Elton John for the movie The Lion King: 

  • “Circle of Life”
  • “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King”
  • “Be Prepared”
  • “Hakuna Matata”
  • “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”

Did Elton John and Bernie Taupin stop working together?

Elton John and Bernie Taupin did briefly stop working together in 1978. Elton’s 1978 album A Single Man was the first to feature lyricist Gary Osborne in place of Taupin.

Elton then followed up that album with an album of cover songs called Victim of Love which is one of his poorest selling albums.

Taupin made a partial return on the next album, 1980’s “21 at 33”. But he didn’t return 100% to helping Elton write his songs until the 1983 album “Too Low for Zero”.

As a fan noted, the record company that Elton was associated with was interfering with his music process. As a result, Bernie either removed himself or was briefly removed from the group with the intent to return later.

During their exile period, Elton worked with other lyricists who replaced Bernie. Elton later refuted this break by simply stating that we never really separated but took a break from each other due to the intensive working.

Additionally, they still worked part-time, collaborating with other artists and musicians during this time.

But within two years, Bernie and Taupin got back together. After that, the pair continued working on several commercially hit projects, including “Too Low For Zero”, “Ice on Fire”, and “Sleeping with the Past”.

The pair were seen together in 2021 at the release of Elton’s six-track collection from his first album. The best friends held each other’s shoulders and relived the old friendship.

Are Bernie and Elton still friends?

Bernie Taupin and Elton John are not only friends but more like close family members to one another. And they continue to work together on Elton John’s albums.

The duo got together as part of their first song’s re-release composed to mark John’s 74th birthday.

John released his first song ever, called Scarecrow, in 1967. For this track, John worked with his lyricist and musical partner, Bernie Taupin. And as Elton celebrated his 74th birthday, he released the last six tracks from the boxset.

In 2021, Elton released a collection of box sets consisting of six tracks from his first album in digital form.

To mark the occasion, Bernie and John came together for the event. Here, the duo could be seen throwing arms around each other’s shoulders, smiling, and enjoying time as good friends do.

Honestly, it’s pretty safe to say that Taupin has played an important role in John’s musical career, and John doesn’t shy away from giving the lyricist plenty of credits.

John had proclaimed his admiration for his friend openly, saying:

“Thank you to Bernie, who’s been the constant thing in my life-when I was screwed up, when I was normal, he’s always been there for me.”

Aside from collaborating with Taupin for writing the majority of the lyrics for all of his songs, the documentary captures both living family-like relations.

Digging whether Bernie and John are still friends also made me wonder why John didn’t write his own lyrics? 

So, I made sure to talk about it in a recent article. As of now, John and Taupin are on excellent terms and intend to remain best friends.

What did Bernie Taupin think of the songs in The Lion King?

Bernie Taupin did not approve of Elton working without him on the Disney film The Lion King until he saw the film. After that, he wholeheartedly approved.

To both of their surprise, the movie went on to become the “best-grossing traditionally animated feature of all time.” source

One of the critical factors that have enabled Bernie and John to work with the same drive is the fact that “they remain artistically engaged with their art”.

Why does Elton John not like the new Lion King movie?

Elton John considered the remake of the ‘Lion King’ a huge disappointment because he believed the new version messed up his music.

For Elton, his music was the part of the original movie that captured the essence of finding a place in the circle of life, but the new version missed this magic and joy.

John also highlighted the commercial success of his track while talking to GQ U.K. The legendary singer argued that the franchise’s original track enjoyed a much stronger reception in 1994.

This is what Elton told the magazine: 

“The soundtrack hasn’t had nearly the same impact in the charts that it had 25 years ago when it was the best selling album of the year. The new soundtrack fell out of the charts so quickly, despite the massive box-office success.” 

He also added: 

“I wish I’d been invited to the party more, but the creative vision for the film and its music was different this time around, and I wasn’t welcomed or treated with the same level of respect. That makes me extremely sad. I’m so happy that the right spirit for the music lives on with the Lion King stage musical.”


When Elton John got the opportunity to work on one of Disney’s most ambitious projects, fans believed Taupin would be a part of it.

But instead, the 1994 animated movie featured Tim Rice as the lyricist.

According to available information, Elton didn’t work with Taupin on The Lion King because Bernie didn’t have much experience working for musicals. He has remained chiefly a lyricist with great hold in writing for pop music.

In addition, it is not new in the music industry to find music partners signing for individual projects whenever an opportunity knocks on the door.

For John and Bernie, the same can be said. Choosing to work on The Lion King did not impact Bernie and Taupin’s relationship. They are still great friends and continue to support each other.

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Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Jeff Campbell

Hi, I'm Jeff Campbell, a former DJ, music journalist, musician, and music lover. I'm old enough to have seen all the cool bands and young enough to still remember them.

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