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Elton John

Elton John

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Elton John <tr style="text-align: center;"><td colspan="3">Image:Eltonperforming2006.jpg
Elton John performing, 2006
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Background information

<tr><td>Born</td><td colspan="2">March 25 1947 (age 70)</td></tr><tr><td>Origin</td><td colspan="2">Pinner, London, England</td></tr><tr><td>Genre(s)</td><td colspan="2">Rock, Pop</td></tr><tr><td>Occupation(s)</td><td colspan="2">Singer-songwriter, pianist, record producer</td></tr><tr><td>Years active</td><td colspan="2">1967—present</td></tr><tr><td style="padding-right: 1em;">Label(s)</td><td colspan="2">Uni (1969—1972)
MCA (1972—1980)
Geffen (1981—1987)
MCA (1987—1993)
Rocket/Island (1995—1999)
Universal (US 2001—2004)
Interscope (US 2006—present)
Mercury (non-US 1995—present)</td></tr>
<tr><td>Website</td><td colspan="2">EltonJohn.com</td></tr>

Sir Elton Hercules<ref>This middle name, after the horse named Hercules on the British sitcom Steptoe and Son, appears little used (it only receives 801 Google results as of 27/05/06), however The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. uses the name in its entry. It is officially part of his name, as reflected in this certificate notifying the change of name of a company director (Elton John).</ref> John, CBE<ref>He was made a CBE in 1996. In the 1998 New Year's Honours list he was made a Knight Bachelor. [1] The latter confers no postnominal letters, hence he is Sir Elton John CBE.</ref> (born Reginald Kenneth Dwight on 25 March 1947) is an English pop/rock singer, composer and pianist. In a career spanning five decades, Elton John has sold over 250 million records<ref>http://music.yahoo.com/read/news/18137562</ref> and has over 50 Top 40 hits, making him one of the most successful musicians of all time.

John was one of the dominant commercial forces in the rock world during the 1970s, with a string of seven consecutive #1 records on the U.S. album charts, 23 Top 40 singles, 16 Top 10 ones, and six #1 hits. His success had a profound impact on popular music, and contributed to the continued popularity of the piano in rock and roll. Key musical elements in John's success included his melodic gifts matched with the contributions of his lyricist partner Bernie Taupin, his rich tenor and gospel-chorded piano, aggressive string arrangements, and his flamboyant fashion sense and on-stage showmanship.

In the early 1990s, John publicly revealed the personal costs of his rock-star extravagance: his ongoing struggle with drug abuse, depression and bulimia.[citation needed] He continues to be a major public figure, and has been heavily involved in the fight against AIDS since the late 1980s. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994 and was knighted in 1998, and has remained an enduringly successful artist.

Contents

Life and career

Early years (1947–1962)

Reginald Kenneth Dwight was born in Pinner, Middlesex, a London suburb. His father, Stanley Dwight, was an officer in the Royal Air Force and was frequently away. When the elder Dwight was home, he was demanding, disapproving, and difficult to please, a frightening countenance. Reggie's mother, the former Sheila Harris, was strict, but in contrast to her husband was Elton's true mentor, confidant, and confidence-booster. Years later, she said that her son grew up "a bundle of nerves." Reggie's childhood was marred by terrible arguments between his parents. But something happened in 1950 that would set his life on an immutable course; at age three, he started playing the piano by ear.

The home's general tunefulness encouraged Reggie's entry into music. Stanley Dwight had once played trumpet with an American-styled big band called Bob Miller and The Millermen. He and Sheila were avid record buyers, exposing Reggie to the music of pianists Winifred Atwell, Nat King Cole, and George Shearing, and to singers Rosemary Clooney, Frank Sinatra, Kay Starr, Johnny Ray, Guy Mitchell, Jo Stafford, and Frankie Laine. By the time he was four, his parents recognized Reggie's talent, and would often ask him to play at parties.

In 1956, Reggie discovered Elvis Presley. Soon his mother was buying him records by rock 'n' roll acts like Presley and Bill Haley and His Comets. By the time he started attending the Royal Academy of Music on a scholarship at age 11, Reggie's musical mind was firmly wedded to rock'n'roll.

Reggie preferred playing by ear. Subprofessor Helen Piena once said that upon the boy's entrance into the Academy, she'd played him a four-page piece by Handel, which he promptly played back for her like a "gramophone record." Reggie enjoyed playing Chopin and Bach and singing in the choir during his Saturday classes at the Academy, but was not otherwise a diligent classical student. As he remembered decades later, "I kind of resented going to the Academy. I was one of those children who could just about get away without practicing and still pass, scrape through the grades." Sometimes, he would play truant and ride around the tube. Yet Piena saw Reggie as a "model student."

A student at the Academy for five years, Reggie rounded out the little free time he had with a newspaper route and a job at a wine shop on Saturday afternoons after class. At Pinner Country Grammar School, he was more advanced musically than his peers, and had an aptitude for songwriting, dashing off good melodies for his composition assignments.

Reggie's record collection grew rapidly. He took sustenance in the early rock 'n' roll piano pioneers, annoying his father, who wanted him to concentrate on the classics, and frightening his mother with a fascination for music of the sexual, androgynous Little Richard. Reggie gained some notoriety by playing like Jerry Lee Lewis at Pinner County Grammar School functions, and even sang.

In 1962, Reggie's embattled parents finally divorced, in the wake of Sheila Dwight's friendship with a painter named Fred Farebrother. Later, Stanley married again and had four children.

Early career (1962–1969)

At age fifteen, with the help of caring father figure Farebrother, Reginald Dwight became a weekend pianist at the nearby Northwood Hills pub, playing on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. The crowd was often rough – sometimes an unruly patron would dump a pint of beer into Reggie's piano – and the youngster had to work hard to please them. He played everything from Jim Reeves country songs ("He'll Have to Go") to Irish folk numbers ("When Irish Eyes Are Smiling"), decades-old ditties ("Beer Barrel Polka"), hits of the day ("King of the Road"), and songs that he had written himself. He received a modest, steady income and substantial tips. "During that whole period, I don't think I ever missed a gig," he said later. A stint with a short-lived group called the Corvettes rounded out his time.

In 1964, Dwight and his friends formed a band called Bluesology. By day, he ran errands for a music publishing company; he divided his nights between solo gigs at a London hotel bar and working with 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 LaBelle and The Bluebelles. In 1966, the band became musician Long John Baldry's supporting band and began touring cabarets in England.

After failing lead vocalist auditions for both King Crimson and Gentle Giant, Dwight answered an advertisement in the New Musical Express placed by Ray Williams, then the A&R manager for Liberty Records. At their first meeting, Williams gave Dwight a stack of lyrics written by Bernie Taupin, who had answered the same ad. Dwight wrote music for the lyrics, and then mailed it to Taupin, and thus began a partnership that continues to this day. In 1967, what would become the first Elton John/Bernie Taupin song, "Scarecrow", was recorded; when the two first met, six months later, Reginald Dwight had changed his name to Elton John, by deed poll, in homage to Bluesology saxophonist Elton Dean and Long John Baldry.

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Empty Sky, Elton John's 1969 debut album, went largely unnoticed.

The team of John and Taupin joined Dick James's DJM Records as staff songwriters in 1968, and over the next two years wrote material for various artists, like Roger Cook and Lulu. 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 of the lyrics if he couldn't come up with anything quickly. For two years, they wrote easy-listening tunes for James to peddle to singers.

Their early output included an entry for British song for the Eurovision Song Contest in 1969, called "Can't Go On (Living Without You)" It came sixth of six songs.<ref>http://www.sandieshaw.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=773&sid=017e2a49eed0aa995e7346cf214a7a90</ref>

On the advice of music publisher Steve Brown, John and Taupin started writing more complex songs for John to record for DJM. The first was the single "I've Been Loving You" (1968), produced by Caleb Quaye, former Bluesology guitarist. In 1969, with Quaye, drummer Roger Pope, and bassist Tony Murray, John recorded another single, "Lady Samantha," and an album, Empty Sky. Despite good reviews, none of the records sold well.

1970s

John and Taupin now enlisted Gus Dudgeon to produce a follow-up with Paul Buckmaster as arranger. Elton John was released in the spring of 1970 on DJM Records/Pye Records in the UK and Uni Records in the USA, and established the formula for subsequent albums; gospel-chorded rockers and poignant ballads. After the first single "Your Song" made the US Top Ten, the album followed suit. John's first American concert took place at The Troubadour in Los Angeles, in August, backed by ex-Spencer Davis Group drummer Nigel Olsson and bassist Dee Murray. Kicking over his piano bench Jerry Lee Lewis-style and performing handstands on the keyboards, John left the critics raving, and drew praise from fellow artists such as Quincy Jones and Bob Dylan.

Elton John was followed quickly with the concept album Tumbleweed Connection in October 1970, which reached the Top Ten on the Billboard 200. A frenetic pace of releasing two albums a year was now established.

The live album 11-17-70 (17-11-70 in the UK) showcased Elton's talent as a rock pianist and father of piano rock. Taped at a live show aired from A&R Studios on WABC-FM in New York City, and introduced by disc jockey Dave Herman, it featured extended versions of John/Taupin's early compositions that illustrate the gospel and boogie-woogie influences on John's piano playing. It also featured much interaction between John, bassist Dee Murray, and drummer Nigel Olsson. During the magnum opus 18:20 version of "Burn Down the Mission", the band interpolates Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup's "My Baby Left Me" and a full rendition of The Beatles' "Get Back" before a rampaging conclusion.

John and Taupin then wrote the soundtrack to the obscure film Friends and then the album Madman Across the Water, the latter reaching the Top Ten and producing the hit "Levon", while the soundtrack album produced the hit "Friends".

In 1972, the final piece of what would become known as the Elton John Band fell into place, with the addition of Davey Johnstone (on guitar and backing vocals). Murray, Olsson, and Johnstone came together with John and Taupin's writing, John's flamboyant performance style, and producer Gus Dudgeon to create a hit-making chemistry for the next five Elton John albums. Known for their instrumental playing, the members of the band were also strong backing vocalists who worked out and recorded many of their vocal harmonies themselves, usually in Elton's absence.

The band released Honky Chateau, which became Elton's first American number 1 album, spending five weeks at the top of the charts and spawning the hit singles "Rocket Man (I Think It's Going To Be A Long, Long Time)" and "Honky Cat".

The 1973 pop album Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player came out at the start of 1973, and produced the hits "Crocodile Rock" and "Daniel"; the former became his first US number one hit. (Ironically this, like his other famous 1970s solo hits, would be popular in his native land but never top the UK Singles Chart; this achievement would have to wait two decades.) Both the album and "Crocodile Rock" were the first album and single, respectively on the consolidated MCA Records label in the USA, replacing MCA's other labels including Uni.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, a double album considered by many to be Elton John's best album, followed later in 1973. It gained instant critical acclaim and topped the chart on both sides of the Atlantic. It also temporarily established Elton John as a glam rock star. It contained the Number 1 hit "Bennie and the Jets", along with the popular and praised "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road", "Candle in the Wind", "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting", "Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding" and "Grey Seal".

John then formed his own MCA-distributed label Rocket Records and signed acts to it — notably Neil Sedaka ("Bad Blood", on which he sang background vocals) and Kiki Dee — in which he took personal interest. Instead of releasing his own records on Rocket, he opted for $8 million offered by MCA. When the contract was signed in 1974, MCA reportedly took out a $25 million insurance policy on John's life.

In 1974 a collaboration with John Lennon took place, resulting in Elton John covering The Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and Lennon's "One Day at a Time", and in return Elton John and band being featured on Lennon's "Whatever Gets You Thru The Night". In what would be Lennon's last live performance, the pair performed these two number 1 hits along with the Beatles classic "I Saw Her Standing There" at Madison Square Garden. Lennon made the rare stage appearance to keep the promise he made that he would appear onstage with Elton if "Whatever Gets You Thru The Night" became a number 1 single.

Image:Elton John - Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy.jpg
Elton John's cryptic personality was revealed with the autobiographical album Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy.

Caribou was released in 1974, and although it reached number 1, it was widely considered a lesser quality album. Reportedly recorded in a scant two weeks between live appearances, it featured "The Bitch Is Back" and John's versatility in orchestral songs with "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me". At the end of the year, the compilation album Elton John's Greatest Hits was released and reached number 1.

Pete Townshend of The Who asked John to play a character called the "Pinball Wizard" in the film of the rock opera Tommy, and to perform the song of the same name. Drawing on power chords, John's version was recorded and used for the movie release in 1975 and the single came out in 1976 (1975 in the US). The song charted at number 7 in England. Bally subsequently released a "Captain Fantastic" pinball machine featuring an illustration of Elton John in his movie guise.

In the 1975 autobiographical album Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, Elton John revealed his previously ambiguous personality, with Taupin's lyrics describing their early days as struggling songwriters and musicians in London. The lyrics and accompanying photo booklet are infused with a specific sense of place and time that is otherwise 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.

The album's release signalled the end of the Elton John Band, as an unhappy and overworked John dismissed Olsson and Murray, two people who had contributed much of the band's signature sound and who had helped build his live following since the beginning. Johnstone and Ray Cooper were retained, Quaye and Roger Pope returned, and the new bassist was Kenny Passarelli; this rhythm section provided a heavier-sounding backbeat. James Newton-Howard joined to arrange in the studio and to play keyboards. John introduced the lineup before a crowd of 75,000 in London's Wembley Stadium.

Rock-oriented Rock of the Westies entered the US albums chart at number 1 like Captain Fantastic, a previously unattained feat. However, the material was almost universally regarded as not on a par with previous releases. The musical and vocal chemistry Olsson and Murray brought to Elton's previous releases was seen as lacking by some, both on the album and in the concerts that supported it.

Commercially, Elton owed much of his success during the mid-1970s to his concert performances. He filled arenas and stadiums worldwide, and was arguably the hottest act in the rock world. John was an unlikely rock idol to begin with, as he was short of stature at 5'7" (1.70 m), chubby, and gradually losing his hair. But he made up for it with impassioned performances and over-the-top fashion sense. Also known for his glasses (he started wearing them as a youth to copy his idol Buddy Holly), his flamboyant stage wardrobe now included ostrich feathers, $5,000 spectacles that spelled his name in lights, and dressing up like the Statue of Liberty, Donald Duck, or Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart among others at his concerts made them a success and created interest for his music.

To celebrate five years of unparalleled success since he first appeared at the venue, in 1975 John played a two-night, four-show stand at The Troubadour. With seating limited to under 500 per show, the chance to purchase tickets was determined by a postcard lottery, with each winner allowed two tickets. Everyone who attended the performances received a hardbound "yearbook" of the band's history.

In 1976, Elton released the live album Here and There in May, then the downbeat Blue Moves in October, which contained the memorable but even gloomier hit "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word". His biggest success in 1976 was the "Don't Go Breaking My Heart", a peppy duet with Kiki Dee that topped both the American and British charts. Finally, in an interview with Rolling Stone that year entitled "Elton's Frank Talk", a stressed John stated that he was bisexual.

Besides being his most commercially successful period, 1970 - 1976 is also held in the most regard critically. Of the six Elton John albums to make Rolling Stone's 2003 The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list, all are from this period, with Goodbye Yellow Brick Road ranked highest at number 91; similarly, the three Elton John albums given five stars by All Music Guide are all from this period too (Tumbleweed Connection, Honky Château, and Captain Fantastic).

Elton's career took a hit after 1976. In November 1977 John announced he was retiring from performing; Taupin began collaborating with others. John secluded himself in any of his three mansions, appearing publicly only to cheer the Watford Football Club, an English football team that he later bought. Some speculated that John's retreat from stardom was prompted by adverse reactions to the Rolling Stone article.

Now only producing one album a year, John issued A Single Man in 1978, employing a new lyricist, Gary Osborne; the album featured no Top 20 singles. In 1979, accompanied by Ray Cooper, John became the first Western pop star to tour the Soviet Union (as well as one of the first in Israel, then mounted a two-man comeback tour of the US in small halls. John returned to the singles chart with "Mama Can't Buy You Love" (number 9, 1979), a song from an EP recorded in 1977 with Philadelphia soul producer Thom Bell. A disco-influenced album, Victim of Love, was poorly received.

1980s

In 1979, John and Taupin reunited. 21 at 33, released the following year, was a significant career boost, aided by his biggest hit in four years, "Little Jeannie" (number 3 US), although the lyrics were written by Gary Osborne. (John also worked with lyricists Tom Robinson and Judie Tzuke during this period as well.) His 1981 follow-up, The Fox, was recorded in part during the same sessions and also included collaborations with both lyricists. On 13 September 1980 Elton John performed a free concert to an estimated 400,000 fans on The Great Lawn in Central Park in New York City, with Olsson and Murray back in the Elton John Band, and within hearing distance of his friend John Lennon's apartment building. Three months later Lennon would be murdered in front of that same building. Elton mourned the loss in his 1982 hit "Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)", from his Jump Up! album, his second under a new US recording contract with Geffen Records. He performed the tribute at a sold-out Madison Square Garden show in August 1982, joined on stage by Yoko Ono and Sean Ono Lennon, Elton's godchild.

With original band members Johnstone, Murray and Olsson together again, Elton was able to return to the charts with the 1983 hit album Too Low For Zero, which included "I'm Still Standing" and "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues", the latter of which featured Stevie Wonder on harmonica and reached number 4 in the US, giving Elton John his biggest hit there since "Little Jeannie." Indeed while he would never again match his 1970s success, he placed hits in the US Top Ten throughout the 1980s — "Little Jeannie" (number 3, 1980), "Sad Songs (Say So Much)" (number 5, 1984), "Nikita" (number 7, 1986), an orchestral version of "Candle in the Wind" (number 6, 1987), and "I Don't Wanna Go On With You Like That" (number 2, 1988). His highest-charting single was a collaboration with Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight, and Stevie Wonder on "That's What Friends Are For" (number 1, 1985); credited as Dionne and Friends, the song raised funds for AIDS research. His albums continued to sell, but of the six released in the latter half of the 1980s, only Reg Strikes Back (number 16, 1988) placed in the Top 20 in the US.

The 1980s were years of personal upheaval for John. In 1984 he surprised many by marrying sound engineer Renate Blauel. While the marriage lasted four years, John later maintained that he had realised that he was gay before he married. In 1986 he lost his voice while touring Australia and shortly thereafter underwent throat surgery. John continued recording prolifically, but years of cocaine and alcohol abuse, initiated in earnest around the time of Rock of the Westies' 1976 release, were beginning to take their toll. In 1987 he won a libel case against The Sun who had written about his allegedly having underaged sex; afterwards he said, "You can call me a fat, balding, talentless old queen who can't sing — but you can't tell lies about me."

In 1988, he performed five sold-out shows at New York's Madison Square Garden, giving him 26 for his career, breaking the Grateful Dead's house record. But that year also marked the end of an era. Netting over $20 million, 2,000 items of John's memorabilia were auctioned off at Sotheby's in London, as John bade symbolic farewell to his excessive theatrical persona. (Among the items withheld from the auction were the tens of thousands of records John had been carefully collecting and cataloguing throughout his life.) In later interviews, he deemed 1989 the worst period of his life, comparing his mental and physical deterioration to Elvis Presley's last years.

1990s

Elton John was deeply affected by the plight of Ryan White, an Indiana teenager with AIDS. Along with Michael Jackson, John befriended and supported the boy and his family until White's death in 1990. Himself a mess and confronted by his then-lover, John checked into a Chicago hospital in 1990 to combat his drug abuse, alcoholism, and bulimia. In recovery, he lost weight and underwent hair replacement, and subsequently took up residence in Atlanta, Georgia. Also in 1990, John would finally achieve his first UK number one hit on his own, with "Sacrifice" (backed with "Healing Hands") from the previous year's album Sleeping with the Past; it would stay at the top spot for six weeks.

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. That same year, the Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin tribute album came out, featuring contributions from many top British and American rock and pop performers. Finally in 1991, John's "Basque" won the Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition, and his guest concert appearance on George Michael's reverent treatment of "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" topped the singles charts in both the US and UK.

In 1992 he established the Elton John AIDS Foundation, intending to direct 90 percent of the funds it raised to direct care, and 10 percent to AIDS prevention education. He also announced his intention to donate all future royalties from sales of his singles in the US and UK to AIDS research. That year, he released the US number 8 album The One, his highest-charting release since 1976's Blue Moves, and John and Taupin signed a music publishing deal with Warner/Chappell Music for an estimated $39 million over 12 years, giving them the largest cash advance in music publishing history. 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. "Bohemian Rhapsody" featured a duet with Axl Rose, a reconciliatory gesture given Rose's previous homophobic reputation.

In September of the same year, he performed "November Rain" with Rose's band Guns N' Roses for the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards at the Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles. The following year, he released Duets, a collaboration with 15 artists ranging from Tammy Wynette to RuPaul.

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 highest-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. (John acknowledged his domestic partner, Canadian filmmaker David Furnish, at the ceremonies.) 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. After the release of the soundtrack, the album remained at the top of Billboard's charts for nine weeks. On November 10, 1999, the RIAA announced that the album The Lion King had sold 15 million copies and therefore was certified as a diamond record with room to spare.

Elton John was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility 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 1995 John released Made in England (number 13, 1995), which featured the hit single "Believe" (number 13, 1995). Also, a compilation called Love Songs was released the following year.

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The cover of the Princess Diana tribute, Candle In The Wind.

The year 1997 found extreme highs and lows for John. Early in the year, vestiges of the flamboyant Elton resurfaced as he threw a 50th birthday, costumed as Louis XIV, for 500 friends (the costume cost more than $80,000). But later that year he lost two close friends, designer Gianni Versace and Diana, Princess of Wales.

In September, Taupin altered the lyrics of "Candle in the Wind" for a special version mourning the death of Diana, 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 knighted by Queen Elizabeth II on 24 February 1998, granting him the title of "Sir". The honour was officially for his charitable work.

John closed out the decade by writing the score for The Muse in 1999. He also had a pacemaker installed to overcome a minor heart problem.

John even featured in a few episodes of South Park and performed "Wake Up Wendy" for Chef Aid: The South Park Album.

2000s

In the 2000s, John began frequently collaborating with other artists. In 2000, John and Tim Rice teamed again to create songs for DreamWorks' animated film The Road To El Dorado. In the musical theatre world, addition to a 1998 adaptation of The Lion King for Broadway, John also composed music for a Disney production of Aida in 1999 with lyricist Tim Rice, for which they received the Tony Award for Best Original Score and the Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album.

In 2001, he duetted with Eminem on the rapper's "Stan" at the Grammy Awards. This went a long way towards absolving Eminem of charges of homophobia and thus paving the way for Eminem's greater mainstream acceptance. That same year, his 1970s track "Tiny Dancer" was prominently featured in the film Almost Famous, and then his "The Heart of Every Girl" was the end title song from 2003's Mona Lisa Smile.

In 2001 he declared that Songs from the West Coast would be his final studio album, and that he would now concentrate on just live performances. In 2004, however, he released a new album, Peachtree Road which, despite some favourable reviews, was his least commercially successful album in every country it was released in.

"Are You Ready For Love" was pretty much ignored when it was first recorded during the late 1970s Thom Bell sessions, but it became something of a Balearic fixture and eventually got a re-release on Southern Fried Records in 2004 and proceeded to go straight to number 1 in the UK and on Billboard's Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart.

Previously, in 2003, British boyband Blue had released a version of "Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word", which included John. It went to number 1 in the UK as well as many other European countries and he achieved yet another number 1 single in the UK in 2005, being featured on 2Pac's posthumous song "Ghetto Gospel" from the rapper's album, Loyal to the Game. The song sampled "Indian Sunset" from John's 1971 album, Madman Across the Water. In May 2006, Pet Shop Boys released their album Fundamental, the limited edition included "In Private", a new version of the Dusty Springfield single they had written in 1989. The song, this time, had been recorded as a duet with John and was later released as bonus track on Pet Shop Boys' top 20 hit "Minimal".

Elton's concert projects in the decade have included:

  • In October 2003 Elton announced that he had signed an exclusive agreement to perform 75 shows over three years 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 LaChapelle. Effectively, he and Celine Dion share performances at Caesar's Palace throughout the year - while one performs, one rests. The first of these shows took place on 13 February 2004. <ref>http://www.eltonjohn.com/home_index.asp?page=now/projects/redpiano.asp</ref>
  • A two year global tour sandwiched between commitments in Las Vegas, some of the venues of which are new to Elton.
  • Face-to-Face tours with fellow pianist Billy Joel have been a fan favourite throughout the world since the mid-1990s.

On 2 July 2005, John performed at the Live 8 concert at Hyde Park in London. Here he sang "The Bitch is Back", "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" and lastly, T. Rex's "Children of the Revolution" with The Libertines and Babyshambles' frontman, Pete Doherty. Another measure of fame came that July when Madame Tussauds made a statue of Elton John to his measurements; it took more than 1,000 hours to complete.

Returning again to musical theatre, John composed music for a West End production of Billy Elliot the Musical in 2005 with playwright Lee Hall. John's only theatrical project with Bernie Taupin so far is Lestat: The Musical, based on the Anne Rice vampire novels. However it was slammed by the critics and closed in May 2006 after 39 performances. <ref>http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/5013218.stm</ref>

In 2006, Elton co-wrote the single "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'" with the Scissor Sisters, featuring Elton on piano. Recorded in Las Vegas, it is taken from the Scissor Sisters album Ta-Dah.

On September 19, 2006, Elton and Bernie Taupin released a sequel to Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, reflecting again on the phenomenal success, the sadnesses, the creativity and the optimism within their 40 year songwriting partnership; The Captain & The Kid features ten new songs, including the first single "The Bridge", and for the first time ever, photographs of both Elton and Bernie Taupin are featured on the album front cover.

On October 9, 2006, The Walt Disney Company named Elton a Disney Legend, the company's highest honor, for his numerous outstanding contributions to Disney's films and theatrical works <ref>http://legends.disney.go.com/legends/detail?key=Elton+John</ref>.

In interviews Elton has listed a number of other projects of his in various stages, including an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. <ref>http://www.stipkocontent.com/contentengine/publish/buzzine/interviews/article_1604.shtml </ref> He also told Rolling Stone magazine that he plans for his next record to be in the hip-hop genre. "I want to work with Pharrell {Williams}, Timbaland, Snoop {Dogg}, Kanye {West}, Eminem and just see what happens. It may be a disaster, it could be fantastic, but you don't know until you try." <ref name=6abc>6ABC.com article: "Elton John Wants to Make Hip-hop Album"</ref>

On November 11, 2006, Elton told The Observer Music Monthly magazine that he would like to see all organised religion banned<ref>http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6140710.stm?ls</ref>. "From my point of view, I would ban religion completely, even though there are some wonderful things about it. I love the idea of the teachings of Jesus Christ and all of the beautiful stories about it, which I loved in Sunday school and I collected all the little stickers and put them in my book. But the reality is that organized religion doesn't seem to work. It turns people into hateful lemmings and it's not really compassionate." <ref>http://observer.guardian.co.uk/omm/story/0,,1942193,00.html</ref>

Personal life

Image:Civil partnership elton john.jpg
Document of Civil Partnership

John has had a complicated personal history in both his sexual orientation, as well as personal battles with drugs and spending.

Sexual orientation and extended relationships

Elton John disclosed his bisexuality in 1976 in a Rolling Stone magazine interview. He married German recording engineer Renate Blauel on Valentine's Day, 1984, but they divorced four years later. John later renounced the bisexual claim and announced he was gay.

He met his partner David Furnish, a former advertising executive and now film maker, in 1993. On 21 December 2005, they entered into a civil partnership. A low-key ceremony with only their parents in attendance was held at the Guildhall, Windsor, followed by a lavish party at their Berkshire mansion.

John does not have any children, but does have ten godchildren as of March 2006. Besides the aforementioned Sean Ono Lennon, these include Elizabeth Hurley's son Damian Charles and David and Victoria Beckham's son Brooklyn.

Within the music industry, Elton is sometimes known as "Sharon", a nickname originally given to him by good friend Rod Stewart. <ref>http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2003/11/02/do0210.xml&sSheet=/opinion/2003/11/02/ixop.html</ref> In return, Elton calls Rod "Phyllis".

Drugs, alcohol and health

Throughout his career, John has battled addictions to alcohol and cocaine, along with the eating disorder bulimia[citation needed]. He is also rumored to have struggled with significant financial difficulties caused by his profligate spending. In the mid-late 1990s, John formed a friendship with pop singer Michael Jackson, who later dedicated his 1997 album Blood on the Dance Floor to him for the support John had given him during his struggle with addiction to prescription painkillers.

In 1987 he had an operation to remove polyps from his vocal cords. Physicians speculated that John's heavy use of marijuana may have contributed to the formation of the polyps.<ref>http://www.femalefirst.co.uk/celebrity/11352004.htm</ref>.

After many years of struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, John finally checked himself into a rehabilitation clinic in 1990. He has cited the highly-publicized case of Ryan White, who died that same year of complications from AIDS (and at whose funeral John performed), as a major motivating factor in his decision to enter rehab.

In July 1999, he was fitted with a pacemaker due to an irregular heart beat.

Spending

Aside from his main home in Windsor, England, John splits his time in his various residences in Atlanta, Georgia; Nice; Holland Park in London; and Venice. Elton John is a noted art collector, and is believed to have one of the largest private photography collections in the world.

During the 2000 court case, where John sued both his former manager John Reid, the CEO of Reid's company and accountants Price Waterhouse Coopers, he admitted spending £30 million in just under two years - an average of £1.5 million a month, the High Court in London heard. The singer's lavish lifestyle saw him spend more than £9.6m on property and £293,000 on flowers between January 1996 and September 1997. John accused the pair of being negligent, and PWC of failing in their duties. Mark Hapgood QC for defendants PWC suggested that John went "spending mad" following a £42m deal with recording company Polygram in February 1996. When quizzed by Mr Hapgood about the £293,000 spent on flowers, John said: Yes, I like flowers. John stated that the terms of the contract, whereby John paid Reid 20% of his gross earnings, were agreed in St Tropez in the summer of 1984 - but that he could not remember the exact occasion on which the deal was made. <ref>http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/1024745.stm</ref> After losing the case, he faced an £8 million bill for legal fees.

Elton John decided with his fleet manager John Newman to sell 20 of his collection of 28 cars at Christie's - including several Ferraris, Aston Martins, and six post-war Bentleys. His reason for selling them was stated as: I do not find enough time to drive them. The sale raised £2 million <ref>http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/showbiz/1283409.stm</ref> The cars sold included:

  • 1993 Jaguar XJ220 - the most expensive car in the collection, with a 213mph top speed and only 852 miles on the clock - sold for £234,750. The auction room was told how Sir Elton's chauffeur refused to drive the car after he "twitched it" on a flyover and was scared by its power.
  • 1978 Aston Martin V8 Vantage Coupe - known as "The Beast" because of its roar went for £80,750. The car was painted in black, red and yellow; the colours of Sir Elton's favourite Watford Football Club.
  • Two Ferraris - a 1992 512 Testarossa and a 1987 Testarossa given to John by MCA Records on the occasion of his 40th birthday. Rod Stewart had been among a group of friends who had ridden in the car<ref>http://www.forbes.com/2001/06/04/0604vow.html</ref>.
  • 1973 Rolls-Royce Phantom VI - Lawrence Cohen from Hertfordshire spent over twice as much on a car valued at £110,000. It was fitted with a 36-speaker stereo system which cost £28,000. It was so powerful that it once blew out the rear window, after which the glass in the car had to be reinforced.
  • 1985 Bentley Continental Convertible - in Tudor Red, the car used in the video for Nikita. The car's body was specially crafted by coachbuilder Mulliner Park Ward of Harlesden, and a long list of special fitments include colour-coded radiator veins and parchment trim piped in red.
  • 1969 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud Mk3 - supplied new in Arizona, it was a purchase by John in Atlanta and named Daisy after the film Driving Miss Daisy which was filmed close to his Atlanta home. Flown to the UK in 1994 by KLM, it spent two years being restored at the cost of £100,000. It sold for £90,000.

In 2003, Elton John sold the contents of his Holland Park home in a bid to create more room for his collection of contemporary art. The auctioneer's Sotheby's catalogue had a list of more than 400 items, expected to fetch £800,000, including: Biedermeier furniture; early 16th and 17th century items including an Edward Bower estimated at £20,000-£30,000 and a portrait of Elizabeth Honeywood from the circle of William Larkin, which was estimated at £30,000-£40,000. John's bedroom featured a painting by 19th-century French artist Jacques-Noël-Marie Frémy, which was exhibited at the 1814 Paris Salon, and is estimated at £12,000-£18,000 <ref>http://www.findaproperty.com/story.aspx?storyid=4831</ref>.

Sports and other interests

  • In 1976, Elton John became involved in Watford Football Club and fulfilled a childhood dream by becoming its chairman and director. He invested large sums of money and the club rose into the First Division after a number of key acquisitions. He sold the club to Jack Petchey in 1987, but remained their life-long president. In 1997 he re-purchased the club from Petchey and once again became chairman. He stepped down in 2002 when the club needed a full-time chairman although he continued as president of the club. Although no longer the majority shareholder, he stills holds a significant financial interest. In June 2005 he held a concert at Watford's Vicarage Road ground, donating the funds to the club.
  • A longtime tennis enthusiast, Elton wrote the song "Philadelphia Freedom" in tribute to longtime friend Billie Jean King and her World Team Tennis franchise of the same name. John and King also co-host an annual pro-am event to benefit AIDS charities, most notably John's own Elton John AIDS Foundation, for which King is a chairperson.

Charity

John has long been associated with AIDS charities after the deaths of his friends Ryan White and Freddie Mercury, raising large amounts of money and using his public profile to raise awareness of the disease. For example, in 1986 he joined with Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight, and Stevie Wonder to record the single "That's What Friends Are For", with all profits being donated to the American Foundation for AIDS Research. The song won Elton and the others the Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal (as well as Song of the Year for its writers, Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager). In April 1990, John performed "Skyline Pigeon" at the funeral of White, a teenage hemophiliac he had befriended.

John founded the Elton John AIDS Foundation in 1992 as a charity to fund programmes for HIV/AIDS prevention, for the elimination of prejudice and discrimination against HIV/AIDS-affected individuals, and for providing services to people living with or at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. This cause continues to be one of his personal passions. In early 2006, Elton donated the smaller of two bright-red Yamaha pianos from his Las Vegas show to auction on eBay to raise public awareness and funds for the foundation

Every year since 2004, he has opened a shop (this year in Manhattan, before in London and Atlanta), selling his second hand clothes. Called "Elton's Closet" the sale this year of 10,000 items was expected to raise $400,000 <ref>http://www.theage.com.au/news/people/elton-john-turns-rags-to-riches-for-charity/2006/04/11/1144521337887.html</ref>

Musical style and voice

In the 1970s, Elton John's sound immediately set him apart from most others by being piano-based in a rock 'n' roll world dominated by guitars. Another early characteristic was a set of dynamic string arrangements by Paul Buckmaster. Coupled with Taupin's often opaque but emotionally resonant lyrics, the results were unique in the history of music. Songs in this style included "Sixty Years On", "Burn Down the Mission", "Take Me to the Pilot", "Levon", "Madman Across the Water", and the best-known of these, "Tiny Dancer".

"Your Song", one of his earliest popular hits, incorporates some other features found in many of his songs:

John also has a distinctive vocal style. In particular, his phrasing is often a bit metronomic and sometimes has a curiously off-kilter, "rushed" quality especially at the end of lines (example: the phrase "like a puppy child" in the song "Amoreena"). He also, at least in his classic period in the 1970s, would sometimes sweep up from his normal tenor into a Four Seasons-like falsetto.

Elton John underwent throat surgery to remove potentially cancerous nodules from his vocal cords in January 1987 while on tour, a necessity he originally said was due to an infection, but later said was the result of excessive drug abuse.<ref>http://www.femalefirst.co.uk/celebrity/11352004.htm</ref>

The problems with his voice can clearly be heard in his raspy singing on the Live In Australia album (released 1987). He made a full recovery from the surgery, but he continued to indulge in illegal drugs until 1990. The surgery in 1987 also had an after-effect on John's voice, and he found that he could no longer sing in falsetto as well as he previously could, and that he now sang in a lower range. During an interview with James Lipton, John had claimed to embrace this new tone, feeling it gave a more "masculine" quality that contrasted with his earlier work.

The change in Elton John's voice has been largely played down, though Elton, commenting fifteen years after the surgery, stated that he was "singing better than ever." Studio effects were evidently added to his voice on his first UK number 1 hit "Sacrifice" (1990). The release of Songs From The West Coast, his 2001 album, showed very clearly how different his voice is to his prime.

Elton John continues to inspire musicians today, particularly the Scissor Sisters, Ben Folds, Adrian Evans, and Ryan Adams, however, more unlikely artists like Thom Yorke (Radiohead), Billie-Joe Armstrong (Green Day) and even Axl Rose (Guns N' Roses) are said to be fans. Final Fantasy music composer Nobuo Uematsu was also greatly influenced by him throughout his life, claiming "no one writes a melody like him."

Awards

Discography

For a complete album discography, see Elton John discography.
For a complete singles discography, see Elton John singles discography.

Band members

Current members
Previous band members

See also

References and notes

References
Notes

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External links

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