Elton John – Sacrifice (Lyrics Review and Song Meaning)


Sir Elton Hercules John is a musician of irreproachable talent. However, it is surprising to learn that this British legend endured 22 studio albums to produce his first UK No.1 hit – “Sacrifice”.

Released as the second single from his 22nd studio album “Sleeping with the Past”, “Sacrifice” has become one of Elton John’s most notable songs. The song also reached No. 18 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1990. The single was released twice; the first time in October 1989 and the second time in May 1990. Each time the record featured two different songs, “Love Is A Cannibal” and “Healing Hands”, on both sides.

Longtime Elton John collaborator and lyricist for “Sacrifice,” Bernie Taupin spoke to Music Connection magazine about the meaning of the song. According to him, the song is about the “rigors” of love in a marriage. According to Elton John, the inspiration for the song came from American singer Aretha Franklin’s hit “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man,” which addressed topics such as infidelity and gender equality.

This moving ballad by the maestro has given rise to numerous covers, notably by Sinéad O’Connor, and Don Henley and Vince Gill.

Watch the music video for Elton John’s “Sacrifice”

Download the single “Sacrifice” on iTunes and Amazon
Buy “Diamonds” greatest hits album on iTunes and Amazon

The clip, directed by Alek Keshishian, stars Canadian model Yasmeen Ghauri and actor Chris Isaak. The video shows the upheavals of a married life ending in a breakup and the husband taking care of their daughter.

The song is about the fall of a marriage and the fact that there is “no sacrifice”. It is the common world view that love and marriage take some “sacrifice” from both parties, and how disastrous its absence would be. Elton John sings that divorce or separation is not a sacrifice one or the other makes. The only sacrifice they would make concerns the psychology of their child.

Critique of the lyrics and meaning of the song “Sacrifice”

Verse 1

The first verse of the song begins with a clue as to why this marriage is falling apart. Elton John relies on human nature that when a relationship gets difficult, each of them turns to the comfort of the others. For him; “When the scent of her lingers / And the temptation is strong” and for her; “Within the limit / Of every married man” comes the feeling of infidelity. And that’s where it all starts to go south.


In these lyrics, Elton John sings about how his heart was cooled or “dead” by the actions of this other person. Often times, we have turned off our emotions to keep us from hurting ourselves. “The things that look better” could be other men and women, which Elton pleads to have simply passed.

“Giving up” is not a sacrifice. It is a temporary solution to a series of temporary problems. They loved each other at one point and something made them forget that. The single word Elton is referring to here could be “love”. Or is it the “sacrifice” itself? Or could it be the ‘loneliness’ which is the feeling they might get from being stuck in “two separate worlds”?

Verse 2

“Mutual understanding” is a solid pillar of a successful marriage. On the other hand, the “mutual misunderstanding” is not. When a misunderstanding sets in, it erodes the relationship. Being hurt continually is something that no one can endure forever. Either they break or they get cold. In the song, we learn that being too injured builds a prison around you; not necessarily to restrict them, but to prevent them from dealing with things that hurt them.

Watch Elton John perform “Sacrifice” live in Rome in 2005

In the final act, as in the last stage of their marriage, they find themselves in a situation where there is nothing more that can be done to save him. All opportunities and possibilities are tried and failed. All tears are shed and all curses are cast.

The more you hold on to something / someone, the harder it will be to let go. The stronger the bond, the more jealousy results and the more pain it causes.

Elton Jon might suggest that even in the final act, it’s important to have a clear vision of the “direction” the couple are taking. There is “no sacrifice” in renouncing a marriage except for the trauma suffered by the child. There is also no reason to smile through this “for the child”, but it is important to re-evaluate their choices and decisions and to find their sense of direction.

The song ends with an almost moan from Elton John saying their decision was “no sacrifice”.

What do you think this song and lyrics mean? What are your fond memories of this song? Leave a comment below.

Elton John’s “Sacrifice” Full Lyrics

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