Sir Elton Hercules
"Sir Elton Hercules John", CBE (born 25th March 1947) is a pop music singer,
composer, and pianist, and is one of the most successful solo artists in popular
music history. Though best-known in contemporary times for his successful 1997
re-release of 'Candle In The Wind', his recording and performing career has spanned
over four decades. His flamboyant fashion sense, on-stage showmanship, and public
struggles with his private life have combined with his talent to make him a legend
to his many fans around the world.
John was one of the dominant commercial forces in the rock
world during the 1970s, racking up a string of seven consecutive
#1 records on the U.S. album charts. His piano-based sound
has helped keep that instrument relevant in a guitar-oriented
genre. He has maintained a public presence in the fight against
AIDS, and has had renewed moments of commercial triumph,
such as his defiant hit "I'm Still Standing" and
his award-winning work on the popular animated film "The
Early life and career
Elton John was born "Reginald Kenneth Dwight" in Pinner, England,
the son of Squadron Leader Stanley Dwight, RAF, and his wife, Sheila Eileen (née Harris) Dwight.
Reginald was raised primarily by his mother and other female relatives, and
saw little of his father as a boy. Stanley and Sheila divorced in 1962, when
Reginald was 15.
Reginald began playing the piano when he was four. Something
of a child prodigy, he was able to play by ear any melody
he heard on the radio or phonograph. At 11, he won a scholarship
to the Royal Academy of Music. He stayed at the Academy for
six years, leaving before graduation to focus on his professional
In 1960, Reginald and some of his friends formed a band
called the 'Corvettes', which evolved into 'Bluesology'.
By the mid-1960s, 'Bluesology' was backing touring American
soul and R&B musicians like the Isley Brothers, Major
Lance, Doris Troy, and Patti La Belle and the Bluebelles.
In 1966 the band became musician Long John Baldry's supporting
band and began touring cabarets with him throughout England.
Reginald left soon after, as Baldry's control had increased.
After failing lead vocalist auditions for both 'King Crimson'
and 'Gentle Giant', Reginald answered an advertisement in
the New Musical Express placed by Ray Williams then the young
A&R manager for Liberty Records. There, Ray gave him
lyrics written by Bernie Taupin who had answered the same
ad. Reginald wrote music for the lyrics, and then mailed
it to Taupin. Thus began a partnership that continues to
this day. When they met six months later, Reginald had changed
his name to 'Elton John', by deed poll, in homage to Bluesology
saxophonist "Elton" Dean and Long "John" Baldry.
In 1967 the first Elton John/Bernie Taupin song, "Scarecrow",
Elton and Bernie, now partners, joined Dick James's DJM
Records as staff songwriters in 1968, and over the next two
years, wrote songs for pop singers like Roger Cook and 'Lulu',
while also recording their own songs. Taupin would write
a batch of lyrics in under an hour, and give it to John who
would write music for them in half an hour, disposing the
lyrics if he couldn't come up with anything quickly.
In June 1969, Elton John released "Empty Sky",
his first album, for DJM. Despite good reviews, it failed
to click with the record buying public.
Elton's self-titled second album was released in the spring of 1970 on MCA,
and slowly began to climb the charts. The first single from the album, "Your
Song", made the US Top Ten, and the album followed path.
John's first American concert took place at the Troubadour
in Los Angeles, in August, receiving praise from the likes
of Quincy Jones.
"Elton John" was followed quickly with the concept
album "Tumbleweed Connection" in October 1970.
It reached the Top Ten on the Billboard 200 like its predecessor,
and got heavy airplay on album-oriented radio stations in
the U.S., which most likely played a part in its success. "Tumbleweed
Connection" was followed by the live album "11-17-70",
an ambitious and largely underrated album showcasing Elton's
considerable talent as a rock pianist and father of Piano
rock, with astonishing interaction between Elton, bassist
Dee Murray, and drummer Nigel Olsson. Extended versions of
his early compositions clearly illustrate the gospel and
boogie-woogie influences on Elton's piano playing, as the
lead instrument in a successful, yet unusual (for Rock) trio
format. The live album was followed by the soundtrack to
the obscure film "Friends" and the album "Madman
Across the Water", both that same year. "Madman
Across the Water" reached the Top Ten, and produced
the hit “Levon” while the soundtrack album produced
the hit "Friends". In 1972, Elton released "Honky
Chateau", which became his first American number one
album, spending five weeks at the top of the charts, and
spawned the hit singles "Rocket Man (I Think It's Going
To Be A Long, Long Time)" and "Honky Cat".
In 1973, Elton started his own label, Rocket Records. That
year, Elton released the pop album "Don't Shoot Me I'm
Only the Piano Player" which produced the hits "Crocodile
Rock" and "Daniel", and the more thoughtful,
album-oriented double LP "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" which
gained instant critical acclaim. "Goodbye Yellow Brick
Road" topped the charts and is considered by many to
be his best album. It contains the number 1 hit "Bennie
and the Jets", along with the popular title song, "Candle
in the Wind" (which went on to become the best selling
song of all time), and the FM radio favourite "Saturday
Night's Alright (for Fighting)." It also contained gems
such as the track "Funeral For A Friend"/"Love
Lies Bleeding" and "Grey Seal".
In 1974, Elton engaged in a noted collaboration with John
Lennon, resulting in Elton covering The Beatles's "Lucy
in the Sky with Diamonds" and Lennon's "One Day
at a Time", Elton being featured on Lennon's "Whatever
Gets You Thru the Night", and a surprise joint concert
performance of these two No. 1 hits along with the Beatles
classic "I Saw Her Standing There". Elton got Lennon
to perform these songs at Madison Square Garden in what would
be his last public performance. The concert was recorded
and released two years later with another live concert recording
on the album "Here & There". That year, he
also became director of a professional soccer team, the Watford
Football Club, and released the albums "Caribou" and "Elton
John's Greatest Hits", both #1 hits, like their predecessors.
Caribou was widely considered a lesser quality album but
demonstrated John's rocking ability with "The Bitch
Is Back" and his versatility in orchestral songs with "Don't
Let The Sun Go Down On Me". Also in 1974, Elton John
was asked to play a character called the "Pinball Wizard" and
perform a song of the same name by the British band The Who
for their rock opera "Tommy)". Drawing on power
chords, Elton's version was recorded and used for the movie
release in 1975 and the single came out in 1976 (1975 in
the U.S.). The song charted #7 in England. Many still recognize
Elton John's rocker version more easily than The Who's original
With the release of the 1975 autobiographical album "Captain
Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy" Elton John revealed
his previously ambiguous personality. In the album, Taupin
and John describe their early days as struggling songwriters
and musicians in London and its environs. The lyrics and
accompanying photo booklet are infused with a specific sense
of place and time that would otherwise be rare in John's
music. "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" was the
hit single from this album and captured an early turning
point in John's life. His next album, the rock-oriented "Rock
of the Westies", entered the Billboard 200 chart at
#1 like "Captain Fantastic", a previously unattained
1976 also saw a highly successful collaboration with English
singer Kiki Dee, when their duet "Don't Go Breaking
My Heart" went to number 1 on the charts.
Elton, in a way, owes his success at that time to his concert
performances. His flamboyant stage wardrobe that included
ostrich feathers, $5,000 spectacles that spelled his name
in lights, a Statue of Liberty costume and more, and his
dressing up like Donald Duck or Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart among
others at his concerts made them a success and created interest
for his music.
Elton's career slowed down somewhat after 1976. That year
he stated in an interview with "Rolling Stone" that
he was bisexual. This revelation may have contributed to
a drop in record sales the following years. The decline in
his record sales was also probably due to his exhaustion.
He cut his performance schedule after that year, and retired
from live performances in 1977 and started recording only
one album per year.
Nevertheless, Elton John dominated the rock world in the
1970s, as evidenced by his seven consecutive albums that
topped the US album charts: "Honky Chateau" (1972,
No 1 for five weeks), "Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano
Player" (1973, No 1 for two weeks), "Goodbye Yellow
Brick Road" (1973, No 1 for eight weeks), "Caribou" (1974,
No 1 for four weeks), "Elton John's Greatest Hits" (1974,
No 1 for ten weeks), "Captain Fantastic and the Brown
Dirt Cowboy" (1975, No 1 for seven weeks) and "Rock
of the Westies" (1975, No 1 for three weeks), and 15
hit singles, including six that went to No 1 ("Crocodile
Rock", "Bennie and the Jets", "Lucy in
the Sky With Diamonds", "Philadelphia Freedom", "Island
Girl", "Don't Go Breaking My Heart") and three
that reached No 2 ("Daniel", "Goodbye Yellow
Brick Road", "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me"),
during that period.
On 13 September 1980 Elton John performed a free concert to a huge audience
on The Great Lawn in Central Park in New York City, within hearing distance
of his friend John Lennon's apartment building. A few months later Lennon
would be murdered and Elton mourned the loss in his 1982 hit "Empty
Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)".
Elton John's biggest 1980s hits included, among others, "I
Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues", "I'm
Still Standing", "Nikita", and a 1986 live
recording of "Candle in the Wind" which he recorded
during a concert with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
although the orchestra did not take part in the song. The
song, which was a tribute to Marilyn Monroe, was originally
recorded in 1973 on his "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" album.
The 1991 film documentary "Two Rooms" described
the unusual writing style that John and Bernie Taupin use,
which involves Taupin writing the lyrics on his own, and
John then putting them to music, with the two never in the
same room during the process.
In 1991, John's "Basque" won the Grammy Award
for Best Instrumental Composition.
In 1992, John performed "Bohemian Rhapsody " and "The
Show Must Go On" with Queen at the Freddie Mercury Tribute
Concert, an AIDS charity event held at Wembley Stadium, London
in honour of Queen's late front man Freddie Mercury. In September
of the same year, he performed "November Rain" with
Guns N' Roses for the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards at the
Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles, CA.
Elton John was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
in 1994. He and Bernie Taupin had previously been inducted
into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1992.
Elton John was made a Commander of the Order of the British
Empire in 1995.
In September 1997, Taupin altered the lyrics of "Candle
in the Wind" for a special version mourning the death
of Diana, Princess of Wales, and John performed it at her
funeral in Westminster Abbey. A recorded version, "Candle
in the Wind 1997", then became the fastest selling single
of all time, eventually going on to sell over 30 million
copies worldwide, with the proceeds of approximately ?55
million going to the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund.
John would later win the Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal
Performance for the single.
Elton John was dubbed a knight by Queen Elizabeth II on
24 February 1998, granting him the title of 'Sir'.
He continues to release new material to commercial success,
and tours extensively, despite being fitted with a pacemaker
in July 1999. His face-to-face tours with fellow pianist
Billy Joel have been a fan favourite throughout the world
since the mid-1990s. Elton also has a multi-year contract
to perform at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. The show, entitled "The
Red Piano", is a multimedia concert featuring massive
props and video montages created by David La Chapelle
John dueted with Eminem on the rapper's "Stan" at
the Grammy Awards of 2001. This went a long way towards absolving
Eminem of charges of homophobia and thus paving the way for
Eminem's greater mainstream acceptance.
In 2001, John was booked to appear on an episode of the
BBC topical panel show "Have I Got News For You" but
withdrew with just hours to spare. He was replaced by a look-alike
- a taxi driver from Colchester called Ray Johnson, who was
credited by the show as 'Ray Elton John Son'. Johnson also
appeared 'as' Elton in Never Mind the Buzzcocks' December
20th, 2005, as part of a line up. However, it was obvious
that the show had booked Johnson rather than John himself.
He achieved yet another No 1 single in the UK, being featured
on 2Pac's posthumous song "Ghetto Gospel" in 2005,
from the rapper's album, "Loyal to the Game". The
song sampled "Indian Sunset" from John's 1971 album, "Madman
Across the Water".
On 2 July 2005, John performed at the Live 8 concert at
Hyde Park in London.
In July of 2005, Madame Tussauds made a statue of Elton
John to his measurements. It took more than 1,000 hours to
complete. John is currently sandwiching a two-year world
tour, some venues of which are new to Elton, with his regular
appearances at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas.
He has also done work both for and in films. In 1971, he wrote the soundtrack
for the movie "Friends". In 1972 he appeared in the Marc Bolan's
musical film 'Born to Boogie' In 1975, he appeared as the Pinball Wizard
in Ken Russell's over-the-top movie version of the rock opera "Tommy".
In 1994, along with Tim Rice, he wrote the songs for the
Disney animated film "The Lion King". (Rice was
reportedly stunned by the rapidity with which John was able
to set his words to music.) "The Lion King" went
on to become the best-grossing traditionally-animated feature
of all time, with the songs playing a key part. Three of
the five songs nominated for the Academy Award for Best Song
that year were John and Rice songs from "The Lion King",
with "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" winning. In
versions sung by John, both that and "Circle of Life" became
big hits, while the other songs such as "Hakuna Matata" achieved
popularity with all ages as well. "Can You Feel the
Love Tonight" would also win John the Grammy Award for
Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.
Five years later, John wrote the score for "The Muse",
and a year later composed songs for another animated film,
DreamWorks' "The Road to El Dorado". In 2001, his
1970s hit, "Tiny Dancer" was featured on the "Almost
Famous" soundtrack, his song "The Heart of Every
Girl" was featured as the end title song from 2003's "Mona
Lisa Smile", and his most recent movie song is "My
Father's Gun" from 2005's "Elizabeth town".
Elton John Story part 2 more...
Elton John Story part 3 more...