Arguably the most successful singer-songwriter of his generation, Elton John is undoubtably one of music’s best, and most flamboyant, superstars! Sir Elton John, CBE, is one of the most successful solo artists of all time, achieving over 50 Top 40 singles and holding the record for the biggest selling single of all time with Candle in the Wind 1997, which has sold over 33million copies. He is not only the most successful solo male in the history of the American charts, but is the third most successful artists overall, only being beaten by Madonna and The Beatles.
Elton’s musical talents were known at an incredibly young age. At the age of 3 he was able to play The Skater’s Waltz by ear, which lead to him being awarded a scholarship as a Junior Exhibitor at the Royal Academy of Music at the age of 11. It was over the next four years, while attending the academy on Saturdays, that Elton continued to develop his natural music talent in both the piano and singing. However, it wasn’t just performing that Elton was good at, he was an incredibly gifted songwriter! In 1967, he replied to an ad reading ‘Liberty Wants Talent’ and got a job as a writing music in partnership with Bernie Taupin – and this is where Elton John’s art and music journey really begins.
October 27th, 1969 is the day when Elton’s life began to change, as it was the day he wrote the music for ‘Your Song’. The song was released a year later as part of the album ‘Elton John’ and is considered by Rolling Stones to be one of the Greatest Songs of All Time and has since been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Shortly after his album release, he made his American performance debut at The Troubadour in LA, in which he cemented his reputation as a great showman, feeding off the crowd’s energy while still delivering the great music they originally came to hear. His shows became as much about visuals and on-stage antics, as they did the music. His costumes and stage-performing tactics were unique at the time and became a visual spectacle for all involved, with Elton never shying away from daring outfit choices, especially sequins and feathers.
Despite all of Elton John’s popularity and success, it wasn’t until 1989 and his 23rd studio album, that he received his first UK #1 single with ‘Sacrifice’. However, the 1990s took Elton’s career to new heights! It was in 1990 when he decided to become sober after a battle with alcohol, drug, and sex addition, often believed to have caused some of his erratic behaviour during performances and in his personal life, that Elton began to change. His sobriety brought about a new focus, with him dedicating himself not just to music, but also to charity work, in particular working with charities focusing on AIDS. In 1994, after the success of his latest album and tour, Elton John was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with Axl Rose, who presented the award, thanking him personally as being the inspiration for him to become a performer. A year later, Elton became even more of a household name due to the Lion King, in which Elton wrote the music to accompany Tim Rice’s lyrics. For their work, ‘Can You Feel The Love Tonight’ won Best Original Song at the 1995 Oscars.
In 1998, Elton John became Sir Elton John, CBE, after being knighted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace for services to British music and his work in raising money for charities, including various AIDS charities.
A new millennium saw yet another change in Elton’s focus. He began working less in the studio recording his own music and began to focus on other avenues. His won a Grammy for the Best Musical Show Album for ‘Aida’, a musical he created alongside Tim Rice. At the same Grammy’s he also performed alongside controversial rapper Eminem, who Elton was a big fan of, playing the keyboard as Eminem performed and singing the chorus of the song ‘Stan’. He set up The Red Piano residency at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, and although it was originally only planned to be 75 shows over three years, when Elton performed his final show in 2009, he had performed a total of 248! Elton also created the music for Billy Elliot the Musical alongside Lee Hall, who wrote the lyrics and original film’s screenplay, which premiered in 2005 in London’s West End. Six decades on, and Elton still shows no signs of slowing down! His film company, ‘Rocket Pictures’, made several movies, including the biopic ‘Rocketman’ about Elton himself. The film received rave reviews from both critics and general movie goers with it giving a unique insight into Elton John as a musician, but also about his addictions and low points in his career.
However, in 2018 Elton announced his retirement from touring, which was to take place after his final tour, ‘Farewell Yellow Brick Road’. After more than half a century on the road performing music, Elton announced that it was time for him to give one last set of performances so that he could fully embrace the next chapters in his life. Despite this, Elton John’s music and performances have inspired people for over six decades, with his music being instantly recognisable, as are his outfits! He continues to pay a vital part in the music industry through his record label, residencies and collaborations, while having several other projects, such as his film production and sport management companies. He has created a legacy that will continue to live on and inspire the next generations of musicians and performers! He truly is still standing!