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Profiling Elton John, A British Singer, Pianist and Composer

Elton John’s distinct blend of pop and rock influences established him as one of the twentieth century’s most influential musicians. He was musically brilliant from an early age, and his first self-titled American record, released in 1970, catapulted him to international stardom. “Crocodile Rock,” “Philadelphia Freedom,” and “Candle in the Wind” are among his chart-topping singles. He has had success on Broadway, writing the score for Billy Elliot (2008), which won ten Tony Awards. In 1994, he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and in 1998, he was knighted.

Early Life & Career in England

Elton John, the singer, songwriter, composer, and icon, was born Reginald Kenneth Dwight on March 25, 1947, in Pinner, Middlesex, England. He developed his love of music at a young age and trained himself to play the piano at the age of four. He got a scholarship to a young program at the Royal Academy of Music in London after demonstrating his talent.

John had a strained connection with his father, Stanley Dwight, a Royal Air Force pilot. When he was a teenager, his parents divorced, and he and his father fought over his future. John was inspired by the sounds of early rock & roll and aspired to a career in pop music. And, much to his father’s chagrin, John dropped out of school at the age of 17 to pursue his passion. He began performing with a band called Bluesology, and he derived his stage name from the names of two of the band’s members.

In 1967, John responded to a Liberty Records ad for a songwriter. He obtained the position and quickly collaborated with lyricist Bernie Taupin. The next year, the pair signed to the DJM label and began writing songs for other performers.

With his 1969 album Empty Sky, which included songs by John and Taupin, John got his first break as a performer. While that recording did not chart, his 1970 self-titled album included John’s first success, “Your Song.” More No. 1 singles followed, including “Crocodile Rock,” “Bennie and the Jets,” and “Island Girl.” During this period, John had a string of top-selling albums, including Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973) and Rock of the Westies (1975).

Memorable Songs & Energetic Live Performances

John became as famous for his live shows after becoming one of the top talents of the 1970s. For his extravagant concerts, he used outrageous costumes and spectacles. John remarked to W that “I wasn’t a sex symbol like Bowie, Marc Bolan, or Freddie Mercury, so I dressed more on the humorous side, because if I was going to be stuck at the piano for two hours, I was going to make people look at me.”

‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’

John returned to the top of the charts in 1976 with “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” a duet with Kiki Dee. He immediately chose to take a sabbatical from music, focusing his efforts on his soccer team in England, which he co-owned. Around the same time, John publicly declared that he was bisexual (he eventually came out as gay). John was mocked and taunted for his sexuality at the time. The uproar subsided, and he triumphantly returned to music with the album A Single Man in 1979.

‘Little Jeannie,’ ‘Empty Garden’

John did well on the charts despite not having any big hits in the 1980s. Some of the most notable songs from this period are the ballads “Little Jeannie” and “Empty Garden (Hey, Hey Johnny),” the latter written as a memorial to his friend and fellow Beatles member John Lennon, who was assassinated in 1980.

‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight’

John collaborated with lyricist Tim Rice on various projects, branching out in new areas. They collaborated on the music for the 1994 animated classic The Lion King, and one of the film’s songs, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” earned John his first Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song. In 2000, the team won a Tony Award for Best Original Score for their musical Aida.

Around this time, John got a number of distinctions. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.The next year, late Queen Elizabeth II named John a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (the queen knighted him several years later, making him officially “Sir Elton John”).

‘Candle in the Wind 1997’

While he appreciated all of the attention and acclaim, he was soon shaken by loss. John lost two close pals in the summer of 1997: fashion designer Gianni Versace and Princess Diana. As a memorial to Princess Diana, he recreated one of his iconic songs, “Candle in the Wind,” with the proceeds benefiting a charitable fund formed in her honor. “Candle in the Wind 1997” was a huge success, selling over 30 million copies that year.

Later Albums, Books, Broadway, and Movie

Later in his lengthy career, John continued to make new tracks. In 2006, he released The Captain & the Kid, a sequel to his 1975 autobiography Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. He also collaborated with Leon Russell on 2010’s The Union, which resulted in a joint tour. T Bone Burnett later produced John’s 30th studio album, The Diving Board (2013).

Wonderful Crazy Night, John’s 33rd studio album, was released in February 2016 to generally excellent reviews. The Elton John Band, with whom he had last worked a decade before, appeared on the record.

‘Billy Elliott the Musical’ and ‘Rocketman’

As a songwriter, John was crucial in getting Billy Elliott the Musical to the stage. The musical, based on the 2000 film, premiered on Broadway in 2008 and instantly became a critical and commercial success. John also worked as a producer and composer for the 2011 animated feature Gnomeo & Juliet.

Even with a more subdued stage demeanor, John remained a successful live performer. In honour of Queen Elizabeth’s 60th year on the queen, he played with Ozzy Osbourne, Eric Clapton, Stevie Wonder, and Paul McCartney, among others, in 2012.

Around this time, it was revealed that John and his husband were working on a Rocketman biography on the legendary singer. The film, which stars Taron Egerton, was ultimately completed with its presentation at the May 2019 Cannes Film Festival, gaining acclaim for its amusing musical passages as well as its honest portrayal of John’s sexuality. Later that year, the artist followed up with the release of his autobiography, Me.

In January 2020, John and Taupin won the Golden Globe for best original song for Rocketman’s “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again.” After more than a half-century of collaborating on some of popular music’s biggest singles, it was their first shared honor. The following month, the duo received their second joint Academy Award nomination for best original song.

Farewell Tour

On January 24, 2018, John revealed his intention to retire from the road following his Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour, which was due to begin in September. “My priorities have changed,” he explained, referring to his wish to spend more time with his husband, David, and their children. “David and I sat down with a school schedule in 2015… I don’t want to miss out on anything.”

That year also saw the end of his Las Vegas engagement, “The Million Dollar Piano,” which concluded on May 17 at Caesar’s Palace.

Substance Abuse Issues & Elton John AIDS Foundation

After years of struggling with substance misuse concerns, particularly cocaine, which may have caused severe epileptic seizures, John entered rehab in 1990. The newly sober musical star, overjoyed with his second chance at life, quickly established his own humanitarian organization to aid in the AIDS fight. The Elton John AIDS Foundation, founded in the United States in 1992, has raised more than $400 million to support HIV/AIDS programs around the world.

John supports a variety of charities and arts groups, including the Globe Theatre and the Royal Academy of Music, in addition to his own foundation.

John will headline the iHeart Living Room Concert for America in March 2020 to raise funds for coronavirus relief operations.Artists such as Alicia Keys, Dave Grohl, and Sam Smith performed from their homes for the benefit.

Husband and Sons

In 1993, John met his long-term boyfriend David Furnish at a dinner gathering. On December 21, 2005, the couple married in a civil ceremony, the same day the Civil Partnership Act 2004 went into effect. The couple had their first son, Zachary Furnish-John, through surrogacy in December 2010, and their second child, Elijah Joseph Daniel Furnish-John, in January 2013. On December 21, 2014, nine years after their civil ceremony, the pair married after homosexual marriage legislation became law in the United Kingdom that same year.

From 1984 to 1988, John was married to Renate Blauel.

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