|Img Capt:||John performing at the Keepmoat Stadium in Doncaster, July 2008.|
|Birth Name:||Reginald Kenneth Dwight|
|Born:||1947 3, df=yes|
Pinner, Middlesex, London, England
|Instrument:||Vocals, piano, keyboards|
|Occupation:||Musician, singer-songwriter, producer|
|Voice Types:||Tenor (Pre 1987), Baritone (1987-present)|
|Label:||DJM, Uni, MCA, Geffen, Rocket/Island, Universal, Interscope, Mercury, UMG|
In his four-decade career, John has been one of the dominant forces in rock and popular music, especially during the 1970s. He has sold over 200 million records,  making him one of the most successful artists of all time. He has more than 50 Top 40 hits including seven consecutive No. 1 U.S. albums, 56 Top 40 singles, 16 Top 10, four No. 2 hits, and nine No. 1 hits. He has won five Grammy awards and one Academy Award. His success has had a profound impact on popular music and has contributed to the continued popularity of the piano in rock and roll. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked him #49 on their list of the 100 greatest artists of all time.
Some of the characteristics of John's musical talent include an ability to quickly craft melodies for the lyrics of songwriting partner Bernie Taupin, his former rich tenor (now baritone) voice, his classical and gospel-influenced piano, the aggressive orchestral arrangements of Paul Buckmaster among others and the on-stage showmanship, especially evident during the 1970s.
John was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. He has been heavily involved in the fight against AIDS since the late 1980s, and was knighted in 1998. He entered into a civil partnership with David Furnish on 21 December 2005 and continues to be a champion for LGBT social movements. On 9 April 2008, John held a benefit concert for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, raising $2.5 million. In 2008, Billboard magazine released a list on which are present Hot 100's top 100 artists and Elton John reached #3, preceded by Madonna and The Beatles.
John was born Reginald Kenneth Dwight on March 25, 1947, and was raised in Pinner, Middlesex in a council house of his maternal grandparents, with whom his newlywed parents (Sheila Eileen (Harris) and Stanley Dwight) were living.  They then moved to a nearby semi-detached house. He was educated at Pinner County Grammar School until the age of 15, before pursuing a career in the music industry. 
When John began to seriously consider a career in music, his father tried to steer him toward a more conventional career such as banking. He has stated that his wild stage costumes and performances were his way of letting go after such a restrictive childhood. Both of John's parents were musically inclined, his father having been a trumpet player with a semi-professional big band that played military dances. The Dwights were avid record buyers, exposing John to all the popular singers and musicians of the day. John remembers being immediately hooked on rock and roll when his mother brought home records by Elvis Presley and Bill Haley & His Comets in 1956. 
John started playing the piano at the age of three, and within a year, his mother heard him picking out Winifred Atwell's "The Skater's Waltz" by ear.  It wasn’t long before the boy was being pressed into service as a performer at parties and family gatherings. He began taking piano lessons at the age of seven. He showed great musical aptitude at school, including the ability to compose melodies, and gained some notoriety by playing like Jerry Lee Lewis at school functions. At the age of 11, he won a junior scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music. One of his instructors reports that, when he entered the Academy, she played a four-page piece by Handel, which he promptly played back like a "gramophone record."
For the next five years, John took the tube (subway) into central London to attend Saturday classes at the Academy, in addition to his regular school duties at Pinner County Grammar School. John has since stated that he enjoyed playing Chopin and Bach and singing in the choir during Saturday classes, but that he was not otherwise a diligent classical student. "I kind of resented going to the Academy," he says. "I was one of those children who could just about get away without practicing and still pass, scrape through the grades." He even claims that he would sometimes skip classes and just ride around on the Tube. However, several instructors have testified that he was a "model student," and during the last few years he was taking lessons from a private tutor in addition to his classes at the Academy. Therefore, whatever his internal attitude might have been, it seems clear that he was dedicated to learning his craft.
John's mother Sheila, though also strict with her son, was more vivacious than her husband, and something of a free spirit. With Stanley Dwight uninterested in his son and often physically absent, John was raised primarily by his mother and maternal grandmother. When his father was home, the Dwights would have terrible arguments that greatly distressed their son. John was 15 when they divorced. Sheila was soon remarried to a local painter named Fred Farebrother, who turned out to be a caring and supportive stepfather. John affectionately referred to him as "Derf", his first name in reverse. They moved into flat No. 1A in an eight-unit apartment building called Frome Court, not far from both previous homes. It was there that John would write the songs that would launch his career as a rock star; he would live there until he had four albums simultaneously in the American Top 40.
At the age of 15, with the help of mother Sheila and stepfather "Derf", Reginald Dwight became a weekend pianist at the nearby Northwood Hills pub, playing on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. He played everything from Jim Reeves country songs "He'll Have to Go" to Irish tribute numbers "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling," old pub favourites such as, "Roll Out The Barrel," hits of the day, "King of the Road," and songs 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 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, Dwight was going by the name "Elton John", in homage to Bluesology saxophonist Elton Dean and Long John Baldry.
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.
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.
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. The first single from the album, "Border Song", only made the US Top 100 peaking at #92. After the second single "Your Song" made the U.S. Top Ten, the album followed suit. John's first American concert took place at The Troubadour in Los Angeles (his introduction was provided by Neil Diamond), 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.
In the spring of 1970, John was recruited to provide piano and backing vocals on "Back Home", the song recorded by the England football squad which was about to depart to Mexico for the World Cup finals.
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 17-11-70 (11-17-70 in the US) was aped at a live show aired from A&R Studios on WABC-FM in New York City. 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. Ironically, sales of the live album were reportedly heavily hit in the U.S. when an east coast bootlegger released the performance several weeks before the official album, including all 60 minutes of the aircast, not just the 40 minutes selected by Dick James Music.
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 John's absence.
The band released Honky Chateau, which became John'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)" (which is often compared to David Bowie's "Space Oddity") 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 U.S. 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 gained instant critical acclaim and topped the chart on both sides of the Atlantic. It also temporarily established 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" (originally recorded and released in 1970 as the B-side to the UK-only single, "Rock and Roll Madonna"). There is also a VHS and DVD as part of the Classic Albums series, discussing the making, recording, and popularity of "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" through concert and home video footage including interviews.
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 on stage with Elton if "Whatever Gets You Thru The Night" became a number 1 single.
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 weeksbetween 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".
Pete Townshend of The Who asked John to play a character called the "Local Lad" in the film of the rock opera Tommy, and to perform a song named "Pinball Wizard". 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 U.S.). The song charted at number 7 in England. Bally subsequently released a "Captain Fantastic" pinball machine featuring an illustration of John in his movie guise.
In the 1975 autobiographical album Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, 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 signaled 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 U.S. 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 John's previous releases was seen as lacking by some, both on the album and in the concerts that supported it.
Commercially, John 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. That year he also contributed some exemplary piano playing to Kevin Ayers' Sweet Deceiver album.
In 1976, 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 the most commercially successful period, 1970 - 1976 is also held in the most regard critically. Of the six Elton John albums to make Rolling Stones 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 Allmusic are all from this period too (Tumbleweed Connection, Honky Château, and Captain Fantastic).
During the same period, John made a self-effacing guest appearance on the popular Morecambe and Wise show on the BBC. The two comics spent the episode pointing him in the direction of everywhere except the stage in order to prevent him singing.
John'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 attend the matches of Watford, an English football team of whom he was a lifelong devotee, and 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 produced no singles that made the Top 20 in the US but the two singles from the album released in the UK, Part-Time Love and Song for Guy, both made the Top 20 in the UK with the latter reaching the Top 5. 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 U.S. in small halls. John returned to the singles chart with "Mama Can't Buy You Love" (number 9, 1979), a song originally rejected in 1977 by MCA before being released, recorded in 1977 with Philadelphia soul producer Thom Bell. Elton reported that Thom Bell was the first person to give him voice lessons; Bell encouraged John to sing in a lower register. A disco-influenced album, Victim of Love, was poorly received.
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, 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. Elton sang and dedicated "Imagine" to his friend, Lennon, at this concert. Three months later Lennon would be murdered in front of that same building. John mourned the loss in his 1982 hit "Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)", from his Jump Up! album, his second under a new U.S. 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 John's godchild.
However, the 1980s were years of personal upheaval for John. In 1984 he surprised many by marrying sound engineer Renate Blauel. In 1986 he lost his voice while touring Australia and shortly thereafter underwent throat surgery. Several non-cancerous polyps were removed from his vocal cords, and John lost his famous falsetto, and he sang with a new voice. John continued recording prolifically, but years of cocaine and alcohol abuse, initiated in earnest around the time of Rock of the Westies 1975 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."
With original band members Johnstone, Murray and Olsson together again, John 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 U.S., giving John his biggest hit there since "Little Jeannie". Indeed while he would never again match his 1970s success, he placed hits in the U.S. Top Ten throughout the 1980s — "Little Jeannie" (number 3, 1980), "Sad Songs (Say So Much)" (number 5, 1984), "Nikita" boosted by a mini-movie pop video directed by Ken Russell (number 7, 1986), a live 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 United States.
In 1984, Watford reached the FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium, fulfilling a lifelong ambition for John, who by now was owner and chairman of the club. During the traditional pre-match ritual of the crowd singing "Abide With Me", John burst into tears. Watford lost the game 2-0 to Everton, who have played in blue shirts since 1901. After the game a large banner was unfurled among the Everton supporters, saying "SORRY ELTON - I GUESS THAT'S WHY THEY CALL US THE BLUES".
In 1985, John was one of the many performers at Live Aid, playing the Wembley Stadium leg of the marathon concert. He played "Bennie and the Jets" and "Rocket Man"; performed "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" with Kiki Dee for the first time in years; and introduced his friend George Michael, still then of Wham!, to sing "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me".
This was an example of John's endearing support of young artists and embrace of all new music, which continues to this day. He enlisted Michael to sing backing vocals on his single "Wrap Her Up", and also recruited teen idol Nik Kershaw as an instrumentalist on "Nikita". John also recorded material with Millie Jackson in 1985.
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.
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" (coupled 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 tribute album came out, featuring contributions from many top British and American rock and pop performers. Also in 1991, John's "Basque" won the Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition, and a guest concert appearance he had made on George Michael's reverent treatment of "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" was released as a single and topped the charts in both the U.S. and UK. On 24 November 1991 Queen singer Freddie Mercury, a close friend of John's, died of AIDS. John was one of the few invited to attend the singer's private funeral services.
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 U.S. and UK to AIDS research. That year, he released the U.S. 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 Elton John's Duets, a collaboration with 15 artists ranging from Tammy Wynette to RuPaul. This also included a new collaboration with Kiki Dee, entitled "True Love", which reached the Top 10 of the UK charts, and a duet with Eric Clapton on "Runaway Train", which also charted.
Along with Tim Rice, John wrote the songs for the 1994 Disney animated film The Lion King, which 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. 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 10 November 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.
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. John was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1995. John has also been awarded the honour of Knight Bachelor. This award entitles him to use the prefix "Sir".
The year 1997 found extreme highs and lows for John. Early in the year, vestiges of the flamboyant John resurfaced as he threw a 50th birthday party, costumed as Louis XIV, for 500 friends (the costume cost more than $80,000). John also performed with the surviving members of Queen in Paris at the opening night (17 January 1997) of "Le Presbytere N'a Rien Perdu De Son Charme Ni Le Jardin Du Son Éclat", a work by French ballet legend Maurice Bejart which draws upon AIDS and the deaths of Freddie Mercury and the company's principal dancer Jorge Donn. This was only the second time the three surviving members of Queen had performed together live since Mercury had died. Unfortunately, later in 1997 John lost two close friends, designer Gianni Versace (who was murdered) and Diana, Princess of Wales (who died in a Paris car crash).
In early 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- and biggest-selling single of all time, eventually going on to sell 5 million copies in the United Kingdom, 11 million in the U.S., and around 33 million worldwide, with the proceeds of approximately £55 million going to the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund. It would later win John the Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, an achievement he has yet to repeat. He hasn't performed the song since Princess Diana's funeral, as John stated it would only be played once to lend it significance and make it special.
1998 saw the production of Elaborate Lives: The Legend of Aida where John again teamed with Tim Rice. The musical was given its world premiere in Atlanta, GA at the Alliance Theatre where John was able to drop in on rehearsals from time to time. Dropping the cumbersome title as well as many of the production elements that gave the Atlanta production so many headaches, Aida went on to Chicago and eventually Broadway.
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. He also released a live compilation album called Elton John One Night Only - The Greatest Hits from the show he did at Madison Square Garden in New York City that same year.
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.
Also in 2001, John accepted an offer to appear as a guest on the BBC topical quiz show Have I Got News For You. However, he changed his mind just hours before recording was due to begin, and so the producers recruited Ray Johnson, a taxi driver from Colchester, Essex, who worked part-time as an Elton John lookalike. He said next to nothing during the programme, while captions praising Johnson and slagging off John were added to the final cut of the programme when it was broadcast 24 hours later. A special based on his career from his start until that year was also done and called "The Elton John Story" which is shown on the VH-1 Classic channel. However, it has never been released on VHS or DVD.
John continued his successful collaborations with other artists during the 2000s. "Your Song" was re-recorded several times during the first part of the decade with Alessandro Safina, British cellist Julian Lloyd Webber, and others.
In 2001, John duetted with Eminem on the rapper's "Stan" at the Grammy Awards which appears on Eminem's compilation album as its bonus track. Considering the long-running assumption that the rapper was homophobic, the performance helped clear up some unneeded negative attention. He also performed the song "Friends" for the soundtrack to The Country Bears written by Taupin along with starring as himself working in a garden.
Also in 2002, British boy band Blue 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. John 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. "Indian Sunset" was later released on the single "Electricity", which John wrote for the 2005 West End production of Billy Elliot the Musical. The single benefited from some clever marketing. Over 75% of the sales were downloads, thanks to an Elton John competition where fans could send a text message including an answer to the question and then receive a download of the track. "Electricity" remains one of his biggest solo hits of the 2000s.
However, his biggest hit was "Are You Ready For Love". Although it was pretty much ignored when it was first recorded during the late 1970s Thom Bell sessions, it became something of a Balearic fixture and eventually got a re-release on Southern Fried Records in 2003. "Are You Ready For Love" proceeded to go straight to number 1 in the UK and on Billboard's Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart.
John was one of the performers at the Live 8 concert at Hyde Park in London on 2 July 2005. He performed as third act of the day and had also been promoting the concerts together with Bob Geldof, Bono etc. At the concert in London, he played "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.
Returning again to musical theatre, John composed music for a West End Theatre production of Billy Elliot the Musical in 2005 with playwright Lee Hall. John's only theatrical project with Bernie Taupin so far is , based on the Anne Rice vampire novels. However it was slammed by the critics and closed in May 2006 after 39 performances. As for other movies, in 2002, 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.
Also in 2005, John recorded a duet with Australian country music artist Catherine Britt, titled "Where We Both Say Goodbye". The duet peaked at #38 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Songs charts. Then he did another one with the late, closeted gay R&B singer, Luther Vandross on "Anyone who had a heart" from his tribute album, .
Elton John's Christmas Party compilation album with two of his own Christmas songs and the rest being various artists he chose to be on there was initially released exclusively to Hear Music outlets at every Starbucks coffee shop on 10 November 2005. It sought to give away two dollars from each and every sale to the charity Elton John AIDS Foundation. The following year, on 10 October 2006, the album was re-released to the general market eleven months after its original and first release. But six songs of the original twenty-one were omitted from the new release. Therefore, it was left with only fifteen. Then another Elton John tribute album came out, this time from various artists at Studio 99 titled The Timeless Classics Of Elton John Performed By Studio 99, was released on CD on 7 February 2006.
On 19 September 2006, John and Bernie Taupin released a sequel to Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, reflecting again on the phenomenal success, the sadness, 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 John and Taupin are featured on the album front cover. The album received universal critical acclaim with worldwide sales of 3.5 million.
Among his many honours, John was named a Disney Legend for his numerous outstanding contributions to Disney's films and theatrical works on 9 October 2006, by The Walt Disney Company. It is the company's highest honour. Another measure of fame came back in July 2005 when Madame Tussauds made a statue of John to his measurements; it took more than 1,000 hours to complete.
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". His string of UK #1 duets continued later that year when the Scissor Sisters' released "I Don't Feel Like Dancin'", which John co-wrote. Recorded in Las Vegas, it featured John on piano and was included on their album Ta-Dah. "I Don't Feel Like Dancin became the fourth best selling single in the UK in 2006 and it stayed in the UK top 40 for 27 weeks. John also co-wrote "Intermission" from the same album.
On 12 November 2006, in The Observers Music Monthly "When Elton Met Jake", John spoke in an interview with openly gay Scissor Sisters band member, Jake Shears as they talked about being gay music stars and other matters. Prior to that, he criticized the Roman Catholic Church's position on condoms which he had blamed for the death of some of his friends who suffered from HIV/AIDS.
March 2007 saw John celebrating his 60th birthday in more ways than one. He engaged in a joint party with artist Sam Taylor-Wood in the East End and performed at Madison Square Garden for the 60th time (which is a record) to mark his 60th birthday. He performed songs including Your Song, Rocket Man, Candle In the Wind and I'm Still Standing.
To celebrate his record-setting achievement at Madison Square Garden, a banner marking "Most Performances by a Single Artist" at the Garden was raised to the rafters and placed within Madison Square Garden's Music Hall of Fame. Moreover, he released a greatest-hits compilation CD, entitled Rocket Man - Number Ones on 27 March 2007. Rocket Man - Number Ones was released in 17 different versions worldwide, including a CD/DVD combo. Finally, on 26 March, John's back catalogue - almost 500 songs from 32 albums - became available for legal download. "I knew that the entire catalog - not just the hits - needed care and attention to be released in this way," he said in a statement. "Now that it's happening, I'm pleased for the fans' sake." John performed at Madison Square Garden in a three-hour long and thirty-three song concert that is also streamed live via *MSN Music that day called Empty Garden. It also inspired a television special called Happy Birthday Elton! to occur which aired on ITV1 and My Network TV. The concert was started with the audience singing "Happy Birthday". He opened with a classic song from his second album, "Sixty Years On", doubly paying homage to his 60th birthday. The show also featured behind-the-scenes footage from the superstar's private party, where Kate Thornton met and greeted famous guests. The show also saw famous friends of John giving their opinion of him. On 2 October 2007, there was a DVD release of it titled Elton 60 - Live at Madison Square Garden and a box set with the live CD on 9 October 2007.
On 1 July 2007, John performed at the Concert For Diana. He started the concert with Your Song and finished the concert with three songs; Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting), Tiny Dancer, and Are You Ready For Love. He then commenced a European Tour and played at Live at the Marquee (festival) in Cork on 9 July 2007 to a rapturous reception.
In interviews, John has listed a number of other projects of his in various stages, including an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. He also told Rolling Stone magazine that he plans for his next record to be in the R&B/hip-hop genre. "I want to work with Pharrell , Timbaland, Snoop , Kanye , Eminem and just see what happens. It may be a disaster, it could be fantastic, but you don't know until you try." John claims to be a big fan of Blackstreet's 1996 hit, No Diggity. He is currently working on the upcoming album.
He played on 8 September 2007 in Vevey, a small village situated on Lake Geneva, Switzerland. Of this he said "The market square in Vevey is one of the most beautiful and magic places in Europe. Since visiting the area by chance in Summer 2003, I have always wanted to sing there. My friend Shania Twain who lives there, convinced me to set up that gig". (Note: Shania Twain actually lives in the nearby town of Corseaux).
Other memorable concert projects in the decade have so far included Face-to-Face tours with fellow pianist Billy Joel which have been a fan favourite throughout the world since the mid-1990s. In October 2003, John announced that he had signed an exclusive agreement to perform 75 shows over three years at Caesars Palace on the Las Vegas Strip. The show, entitled The Red Piano, was 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. On 21 June 2008, he performed his 200th show in Caesars Palace. A DVD/CD package of "The Red Piano" was released through Best Buy in November 2008. A two year global tour sandwiched between commitments in Las Vegas, Nevada, some of the venues of which are new to John.
In a September 2008 interview with GQ magazine, Elton John said: "I’m going on the road again with Billy Joel again next year" -- confirming that the two piano-playing legends would be reuniting for more Face to Face concerts in 2009.
John has had a complicated personal history in both announcing his sexual orientation, as well as personal battles with drugs, depression, bulimia, baldness, and spending. In 2007, the Sunday Times Rich List estimated John's wealth to be £225 million and ranked him as the 319th richest British person.
In a 1976 Rolling Stone interview, he announced that he was bisexual. He stated his belief that everyone is bisexual to a degree. On rigid notions of macho gender expression, he cited Shirley MacLaine: "Shirley MacLaine said the right thing to Tom Snyder on TV. She said, 'Oh c'mon, Tom. Let's stop all this stupid macho business. It really is a bit passé now.
He met his Canadian-born partner David Furnish, a former advertising executive and now film maker, in 1993. On 21 December 2005, they entered into a civil partnership. The night before the event, a host of his closest celebrity friends helped him celebrate his stag party at the cabaret nightclub Too2Much in London's West End. On the actual day, a low-key ceremony with their parents, photographer Sam Taylor-Wood and her husband Jay Jopling, and John and Furnish's dog Arthur in attendance was held at the Guildhall, Windsor, followed by a lavish party at their Berkshire mansion, thought to have cost £1 million. Many famous guests were invited, but were delayed just outside John's Windsor household in a traffic jam of guests waiting to get inside.
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, David and Victoria Beckham's sons Brooklyn and Romeo, and the daughter of Seymour Stein.
Throughout his career, John has battled addictions to alcohol and cocaine. By 1975, the pressures of stardom began to take a serious toll on the musician. During "Elton Week" in Los Angeles that year, John suffered a drug overdose. He also battled the eating disorder bulimia. In a CNN interview with Larry King in 2002, King asked if John was aware of Diana, Princess of Wales's eating disorder. John replied, "Yes, I did. We were both bulimic."
He is also rumoured to have struggled with significant financial difficulties caused by his profligate spending. In the early 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.
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-publicised 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."
Aside from his main home, 'Woodside' at Old Windsor in the English county of Berkshire, John splits his time in his various residences in Atlanta, Nice, Holland Park in London; and Venice. John is an art collector, and is believed to have one of the largest private photography collections in the world.
During the 2000 court case, in which John sued both his former manager John Reid, the CEO of Reid's company and accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers, 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 Saint-Tropez in the summer of 1984 — but that he could not remember the exact occasion on which the deal was made. After losing the case, he faced an £8 million bill for legal fees.
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 The cars sold included:
In 2003, John sold the contents of his Holland Park home in a bid to create more room for his collection of contemporary art. The auctioneer 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.
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 John 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, John donated the smaller of two bright-red Yamaha pianos from his Las Vegas, Nevada show to auction on eBay to raise public awareness and funds for the foundation.
To raise money for his AIDS charity, John hosts annually a glamorous White Tie & Tiara Ball, to which many famous celebrities are invited. On 28 June 2007, the 9th annual White Tie & Tiara Ball took place. The menu consisted of a truffle soufflé followed by Surf and Turf (filet mignon with Maine lobster tail) and a giant Knickerbocker Glory ice cream. An auction followed the dinner held by Stephen Fry. A Rolls Royce ‘Phantom’ drophead coupe and a piece of Tracey Emin's artwork both raised £800, 000 for the charity fund, with the total amount raised reaching £3.5 million. Later on in the event, John sang "Delilah" with Tom Jones and "Big Spender" with Shirley Bassey. Tickets for the Ball cost £1,000 a head. The event raised £4.6 million for his AIDS Foundation in 2006.
Every year since 2004, he has opened a shop, selling his second hand clothes. Called "Elton's Closet" the sale this year of 10,000 items was expected to raise $400,000
John has agreed to be a Honorary Chair of the Imperial Court of New York's Annual Charity Coronation Ball, Night of A Thousand Gowns on March 21, 2009. Other Honorary Chairs for the evening's charity event include Patti LuPone, Idina Menzel, John Cameron Mitchell, Joan Rivers and Dame Robin Strasser.
Elton John said he would ban religion. In 2006 he told the Observer newspaper's Music Monthly Magazine:
In the 1970s, 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 cryptic 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.
In January 1987, John underwent throat surgery to remove potentially cancerous nodules from his vocal cords while on tour, a necessity he originally claimed was due to an infection, but later claimed was the result of excessive drug abuse.
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 use 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. Lipton commented on the "swooping falsetto" on "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" to which John replied, "...which I don't have anymore."
John continues to inspire musicians today, particularly Rufus Wainwright, Kate Bush, Ben Folds, Adrian Evans, and Ryan Adams. Thom Yorke (Radiohead), Billie-Joe Armstrong (Green Day), Dave Mustaine (Megadeth), and Axl Rose (Guns N' Roses) are also 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."
See main article: List of Elton John awards.
See main article: Elton John discography.
Over the years, John has used various pseudonyms on recordings on which he has appeared. Not counting his work in which he was credited as Reg Dwight or Elton John, these pseudonyms include:
See main article: Elton John Band.