American Triangle is a magnificent piece
of work in my judgement. Harrowing, dramatic and stately
are words that come to my mind as I listen to this song.
The lyrics paint a picture of stark images contrasted against
John Ford like western scenery. Elton's singing is passionate.
And it's made all the more poignant by the fact that it's
based on the sad but true-life murder of Matthew
You don't find many pop songs set in minor keys but this
is one and it serves the song well. American Triangle is
in C-minor, the relative minor of Eb and as you know, one
of Elton's favorite keys. The intro is a descending diatonic progression that most musicians should recognize. The slash
chords facilitate the melodic bass line movement.
|| Cm - G/B | Cm/Bb - Fm/Ab | G7/F - Cm/Eb | Ab - Bbsus
But just as importantly, Elton's intro is a carefully crafted,
elegant phrase that is played over classic harmonies. The
right hand melody line "sings" over the softer
harmony voices. In bar 4, Elton uses a familiar little Bb
riff to modulate up to Eb and begin the song.
The bridge, where the music stops entirely except for some
very darkly voiced piano chords, is one of the most dramatic
musical moments Elton has ever created. Personally the voicing
reminded me of Beethoven and it's played with a classical
reverence. Elton's singing brings out the passion in Bernie's
lyrics. A great moment.