Sir Elton Hercules John, CBE, is one of the most highly acclaimed and successful solo artists of all time. He was born on March 25, 1947, in Pinner, Middlesex, England, and given the name Reginald Kenneth Dwight.
He has achieved 38 gold and 31 platinum or multi-platinum albums, has sold more than 250 million records worldwide, and holds the record for the biggest selling single of all time.
In 2019, Rocketman, a biopic was released, which chronicled the story of Elton John, his breakthrough years in the 1970s and his fantastical transformation from shy piano prodigy to international superstar.
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Elton John was the biggest pop star of the ’70s, grabbing headlines and generating hits throughout the world. As it turned out, this was merely the first act in a remarkable career that kept him at the top of the charts for decades. He had a Top 40 hit single every year between 1970 and 1996, a sign that he knew how to both change with the times and mold the times to fit him. Initially marketed as a singer/songwriter, John soon revealed he could also craft Beatles-like pop and pound out rockers with equal aplomb. He dipped into soul, disco, and country, as well as classic pop balladry, progressive rock, and even musical theater. His versatility, combined with his effortless melodic skills, dynamic charisma, and flamboyant stage shows, became his calling cards; many of his songs — including “Your Song,” “Rocket Man,” “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” and “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” — became contemporary pop standards.
The son of a former Royal Air Force trumpeter, John was born Reginald Kenneth Dwight in 1947. He began playing piano at the age of four, and when he was 11, he won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music. After studying for six years, he left school with the intention of breaking into the music business. In 1961, he joined his first band, Bluesology, and divided his time between playing with the group, giving solo concerts at a local hotel, and running errands for a London publishing house. By 1965, Bluesology was backing touring American soul and R&B musicians like Major Lance, Doris Troy, and the Bluebells. In 1966, Bluesology became Long John Baldry’s supporting band as they toured cabarets throughout England. Dwight became frustrated with Baldry’s control of the band and looked for other groups to join.
He failed his lead vocalist auditions for both King Crimson and Gentle Giantbefore responding to an advertisement by Liberty Records. Though he failed his Liberty audition, he was given a stack of lyrics left with the label courtesy of Bernie Taupin, who had also replied to the ad. Dwight wrote music for Taupin’s lyrics and began corresponding with him through mail. By the time the two met six months later, Dwight had changed his name to Elton John, taking his first name from Bluesology saxophonist Elton Dean and his last from John Baldry.Thhe pair collaborated at a rapid rate and over the next two years, the duo wrote for pop singers like Roger Cook and Lulu.
Elton John made inroads in America, where he gave his first American concert at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, which received enthusiastic reviews, and he continued to climb the charts on the strength of the Top Ten single “Your Song.”
Between 1972 and 1976, John and Taupin’s hitmaking machine was virtually unstoppable. “Rocket Man” began a four-year streak of 16 Top 20 hits in a row; out of those 16 — including “Crocodile Rock,” “Daniel,” “Bennie and the Jets,” “The Bitch Is Back,” and “Philadelphia Freedom” — only one, the FM hit “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting,” failed to reach the Top Ten. Honky Chateau was the first a streak of seven consecutive number one albums — Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player (1973), Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973), Caribou (1974), Greatest Hits (1974), Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (1975), and Rock of the Westies (1975) — that all went platinum. John founded Rocket, a record label distributed by MCA, in 1973 in order to sign and produce acts like Neil Sedaka and Kiki Dee. John didn’t become a Rocket recording artist himself, choosing to stay with MCA for a record-breaking eight-million-dollar contract in 1974. Later in 1974, he played and sang on John Lennon’s number one comeback single “Whatever Gets You Through the Night,” and he persuaded Lennon to join him on-stage at Madison Square Garden on Thanksgiving Day 1974; it would prove to be Lennon’s last live performance.
Throughout the mid-’70s, John’s concerts were enormously popular, as were his singles and albums, and he continued to record and perform at a rapid pace until 1976. That year, he revealed in an interview in Rolling Stone that he was bisexual; he would later admit that the confession was a compromise, since he was afraid to reveal that he was homosexual. Many fans reacted negatively to John’s bisexuality, and his audience began to shrink somewhat in the late ’70s. The decline in his record sales was also due to his exhaustion. After 1976, John cut his performance schedule drastically, announcing that he was retiring from live performances in 1977, and started recording only one album a year. His relationship with Taupin became strained following the release of 1976’s double album Blue Moves, and the lyricist began working with other musicians. John returned in 1978 with A Single Man, which was written with Gary Osborne; the record produced no Top 20 singles.
John reunited with Taupin for 1980’s 21 at 33, which featured the Top Ten single “Little Jeannie.” Over the next three years, John remained a popular concert artist, but his singles failed to break the Top Ten, even if they reached the Top 40. In 1981, he signed with Geffen Records and his second album for the label, Jump Up!, went gold on the strength of “Blue Eyes” and “Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny),” his tribute to John Lennon. But it was 1983’s Too Low for Zero that marked his last great streak of hit singles, with the MTV hit “I’m Still Standing” and the Top Ten single “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues.” Throughout the rest of the ’80s, John’s albums consistently went gold, and they always generated at least one Top 40 single; frequently, they featured Top Ten singles like “Sad Songs (Say So Much)” (1984), “Nikita” (1986), “Candle in the Wind” (1987), and “I Don’t Want to Go on with You Like That” (1988). While his career continued to be successful, his personal life was in turmoil. Since the mid-’70s, he had been addicted to cocaine and alcohol, and the situation only worsened during the ’80s. In a surprise move, he married engineer Renate Blauel in 1984; the couple stayed married for four years, although John later admitted he realized he was homosexual before his marriage. In 1986, he underwent throat surgery while on tour, but even after he successfully recovered, he continued to abuse cocaine and alcohol.
Following a record-breaking five-date stint at Madison Square Garden in 1988, John auctioned off all of his theatrical costumes, thousands of pieces of memorabilia, and his extensive record collection through Sotheby’s. The auction was a symbolic turning point. Over the next two years, John battled both his drug addiction and bulimia, undergoing hair replacement surgery at the same time. By 1991 he was sober, and the following year he established the Elton John AIDS Foundation; he also announced that he would donate all royalties from his single sales to AIDS research.
In 1992, John returned to active recording with The One. Peaking at number eight on the U.S. charts and going double platinum, the album became his most successful record since Blue Moves and sparked a career renaissance for John. He and Taupin signed a record-breaking publishing deal with Warner/Chappell Music in 1992 for an estimated 39 million dollars. In 1994, John collaborated with lyricist Tim Rice on songs for Disney’s animated feature The Lion King. One of their collaborations, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, as well as the Grammy for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. John’s 1995 album, Made in England, continued his comeback, peaking at number three on the U.K. charts and number 13 in the U.S.; in America, the album went platinum. The 1997 follow-up, The Big Picture, delivered more of the same well-crafted pop, made the Top Ten, and produced a hit in “Something About the Way You Look Tonight.” However, its success was overshadowed by John’s response to the tragic death of Princess Diana — he re-recorded “Candle in the Wind” (originally a eulogy for Marilyn Monroe) as a tribute to his slain friend, with Taupin adapting the lyrics for what was planned as the B-side of “Something About the Way You Look Tonight.”
With the profits earmarked for Diana’s favorite charities, and with a debut performance at Diana’s funeral, “Candle in the Wind 1997” became the fastest-selling hit of all time in both Britain and the U.S. upon the single’s release, easily debuting at number one on both sides of the Atlantic; with first-week sales of over three million copies in the U.S. alone and 14 weeks in the top spot, it was John’s biggest hit ever. For his next project, John reunited with Lion King collaborator Tim Rice to write songs for Disney’s Broadway musical adaptation of the story of Aida; an album of their efforts featuring a who’s-who of contemporary pop musicians was released in early 1999, going gold by the end of the year. In late 2000, John landed a TV special with CBS, performing a selection of his greatest hits at Madison Square Garden; a companion album drawn from those performances, One Night Only, was issued shortly before the special aired. Released in 2001, Songs from the West Coast was a return to form for John, who found critical success for the first time since the ’80s.
Rocketman a bioptic film starring Taron Egerton as the rocker and Jamie Bellas Taupin. which John and Taupin contributed a new song, “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” — performed as a duet with Egerton — which later won the Academy Award for Best Song. At the end of 2019, John published his memoir, Me. Jewel Box, a hefty box set containing non-LP B-sides and previously unreleased early collaborations with Bernie Taupin.
Elton John Backing Tracks -All That I’m Allowed I’m Thankful … A Good Heart … Are You Ready For Love … Believe … Bennie & The Jets … Blessed … Border Song … Candle In The Wind … Can You Feel The Love Tonight …Circle Of Life … Chloe … Club At The End Of The StreetCome Down In Time … Crocodile Rock … Daniel … Don’t Go Breaking My Heart … Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me … Electricity … Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny) … Face To Face … Flames Of Paradise … Fox … Friends … Goodbye Yellow Brick Road … Harmony … Healing Hands … Ho Ho Ho Who’d Be A Turkey At Christmas … Home Again … Honky Cat … I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues … I’m Still Standing … I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That … I Want Love … Island Girl … Looking Up … Kiss The Bride … Levon … Little Jeannie … Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds … Made in England … Madman Across The Water … Nikita … Original Sin … Part Time Love … Philadelphia Freedom … Pinball Wizard … Please … Recover Your Soul … Rocket Man … Sacrifice … Sad Songs (Say So Much) … Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting … Sixty Years One … Someone Saved My Life Tonight … Something About The Way You Look Tonight … Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word … Step Into Christmas … Take Me To The Pilot … The Bitch Is Back … The One … The Simple Life … This Train Don’t Stop Here … Tiny Dancer … Your Song …