Elton John

Elton John

5 articles
Short biography

Over the course of his nearly 40-year career, Elton John has sold more than 250 million records. More than 50 of his singles have been in the Top 40. He is one of the most successful pop singers of all time.

Elton John was one of the most commercially successful rock music artists of the 1970s: 7 of his albums topped the American charts, 23 songs were in the American Top 40, 16 rose to the top 10 and 6 reached the top spot. One of them, "Candle in the Wind" (a tribute to Princess Diana) sold 37 million copies and became the best-selling single of all time. Elton John has influenced the development of popular music and contributed greatly to the spread of piano in rock and roll. The main features of Elton John's work are melodic talent, rich tenor, gospel-sounding piano, energetic orchestral arrangements, a striking stage image and theatrical prowess.

In the early 1990s Elton John had to struggle with drug addiction, depression and bulimia. Nevertheless, he continued his social activities, particularly in the field of fighting AIDS, which he began in the late 1980s. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, was knighted in 1998 and still remains one of the most successful singers in England.

Elton John (real name Reginald Kenneth Dwight) was born in Pinner, England, the son of Air Force squadron commander Stanley Dwight and his wife Sheila (nee Harris). Young Dwight was raised primarily by his mother, but did not see his father often. Stanley and Sheila divorced in 1962, when Dwight was 15. His mother married Fred Farebrother, whom Elton lovingly called "Derf.

Dwight began playing the piano when he was four. A child prodigy, he was able to play any tune. At 11, he won a scholarship to the Royal Conservatory of Music, where he studied for six years before embarking on a career in music. In 1960, Dwight and his friends put together The Corvettes, a band that began by performing compositions by Ray Charles and Jim Reeves (at the Northwood Hills Hotel, in Middlesex) and evolved into Bluesology in 1961. By day he ran errands for music publishers, but at night he performed solos in a London hotel bar and worked with Bluesology. By the mid-1960s the Bluesology were already touring the U.S. - with such rhythm and blues musicians as The Isley Brothers, Major Lance, Doris Troy, Patti LaBelle and The Bluebelles. In 1966, the band began collaborating with Long John Baldry (part of the latter's nickname later incorporated into Elton John's alias) and began touring England.

John and Topin joined Dick James' DJM Records as full-time songwriters in 1968 and spent the next two years writing songs for various artists, including Roger Cook and Lulu. Topin could sketch out a lyric in an hour, then forward it to John, who would write music to it in half an hour, and if he couldn't come up with anything quickly, he would order another sketch. At the same time, John moonlighted in the "budget" labels, recording cover versions of current hits, compilations of which were sold in supermarkets.

In 1979, the creative tandem of Elton John and Bernie Topine was reunited. The following year a new album 21 at 33 was released, which is considered a great achievement in the singer's creative career. One of the songs on the album was Little Jeannie, which was Elton John's biggest success in four years. It reached the 3rd position in the US charts. It should be noted, however, that the lyrics for this song were written by Gary Osborne. Besides Topine and Osborne, Elton John collaborated during this period with such verse writers as Tom Robinson and Judy Tsuki.

In 1981 the album The Fox is released, the recording of which took place partly during the recording of the previous album. Both poets, Topine and Osborne, participated in this work. On September 13, 1980, Elton John gives a free concert in front of a crowd of about 400,000 fans in Central Park, New York. The concert was held in close proximity to the home of John Lennon, a friend of Elton John's. At this concert, Elton John sang Imagine songs as a tribute to his friend. Three months later, Lennon was murdered outside this very building. Elton John mourned this loss in his 1982 composition Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johny), included on the album Jump Up! In August 1982, Elton John took part in the concert dedicated to John Lennon at Madison Square Garden in New York. The singer was joined on stage by Yoko Ono and Sean Ono Lennon, Elton John's godson.

The '80s were a period of great personal turmoil for the singer. In 1984, he unexpectedly married sound engineer Renata Blauel. In 1986, he loses his voice while touring Australia and undergoes throat surgery shortly thereafter. Several polyps were removed from his vocal cords, which fortunately were not related to cancer. As a result of this, the timbre of the singer's voice has changed somewhat, and from this period he begins to sound in a new way. Elton John continues to record extensively, but years of addiction to cocaine and alcohol begin to take their toll. In 1987, he wins a libel suit against The Sun newspaper, which accused him of having sex with minors. After his court victory, Elton John said: "You can call me a fat, bald, talentless old queen who can't sing - but you have no right to say anything untrue about me."

After former members of his band such as Johnston, Murray and Olsson got back together, Elton John was able to return to the top of the charts with his new album To Low For Zero, which was recorded in 1983. This album included such hits as I'm Still Standing and I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues, among other songs. The latter track, which was recorded with Stevie Wonder, reached number 4 in the U.S. charts. Although Elton John during this period never managed to repeat the success in America that he achieved in the 70's, his songs regularly reached the top positions in the charts throughout the decade. These were such compositions as: Little Jeanny (ranked #3 in 1980), Sad Song (Say So Much) (#5 in 1984), Nikita (#7 in 1986). The most successful single was the rabura, in which Elton John participated along with such artists as Dionne Warwick, Gladys Nnaith and Stevie Wonder - That's What Friends Are For (1st place in 1985). Proceeds from this song went to fund AIDS-related research. Although his albums continued to sell, only his work like Reg Strikes Back managed to break into the U.S. Top 20 and reach #16 there in 1988.

In 1984, Watford Football Club made it to the finals of the English Football League Cup. Such was the fulfillment of a long-time dream of Elton John, who for many years was a fan of the club, as well as its owner and chairman of the board. During the traditional pre-match ceremony, fans sang the song Abide With Me, which brought tears to Elton John's eyes. However, the game was lost to the Everton club, who played in their traditional blue uniforms. After the game, Everton fans raised a banner over their stand that read: "Sorry, Elton - but that's probably why everyone calls us blue."

In 1985 Elton John, along with other famous performers, took part in the Live Aid concert project, the proceeds of which were used to help the countries of the African continent. During the marathon concert at the Wembley Stadium in London he performed his songs Bennie And The Jets and Rocket Man, sang Don't Go Breaking My Heart with Kiki Dee, and also introduced to the public his young friend George Michael, a member of the Wham! group, by singing the song Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me with him.

In 1986 Elton John participated in the recording of Rock The Nations album by the metal band Saxon's, recording the keyboards for two compositions from the album.

In 1988, he gave five concerts at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The artist's total number of concerts at this venue after that was 26, which allowed him to break the record previously held by the American band Grateful Dead. However, this year can also be considered a turning point in Elton John's career and personal life. At Sotheby's in London, over 2,000 objects connected to or belonging to Elton John were offered for sale for a total of nearly $20 million. Among them was even a collection of tens of thousands of music records that Elton John had been collecting and cataloging for many years. The singer himself admitted that this was his peculiar farewell to his eccentric and tumultuous past. In later interviews, he said that 1989 was perhaps the most difficult year for him, and compared his condition during that period to Elvis Presley's complete mental and physical exhaustion in his final years.

Elton John was deeply affected by the story of Ryan White, a teenager from Indiana who had AIDS. Along with Michael Jackson, he took an active part in the child's fate, supporting himself and his family until White's tragic death in 1990. While in a depressed state, Elton John was admitted to a hospital in Chicago in 1990, where he underwent rehabilitation for drug addiction, alcoholism, and bulimia. After completing treatment, he loses weight, undergoes a hair transplant and moves to his new residence in Atlanta, Georgia. In 1990, Elton John finally managed to reach number one on the British Hit Parade, with his single Sacrifice. The song was part of the singer's last year's album Sleeping With The Past. The single stayed at the top of the charts for six weeks.

In 1991, the documentary Two Rooms is released, which describes the creative process of Elton John and Bernie Topine's songwriting tandem As shown in the film, Topine writes lyrics in one place and Elton John creates music in another room. During the creative process, the writers never cross paths with each other. That same year the tribute album Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin is released, with many famous British and American rock and pop music artists taking part in the recording. In 1991 Elton John achieved another success, his composition Basque won a Grammy Award in the category of Personal Instrumental Composition. The singer took part in George Michael's recording of his inerpretation of Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me. This work was released as a single and topped the charts in the UK and the USA. On November 24, 1991, Queen singer and close friend of Elton John, Freddie Mercury, died of AIDS. Elton John was one of the few people invited to the funeral ceremony.

1997 was marked by ups and downs for Elton John. At the beginning of the year, the singer appeared before the public in all his "glory" during the celebration of his 50th birthday. He organized a party for his 500 closest friends in Louis IV style where he appeared in an $80,000 suit. On January 17, 1997, he participated with the three remaining members of the Queen group in Paris in the opening performance of "Le Presbytere N'a Rien Perdu De Son Charme Ni Le Jardin Du Son Éclat" by French ballet legend Maurice Béjart, which was dedicated to the fight against AIDS and the memory of Freddie Mercury and Georges Donne, star of the Béjart company. This performance was the second time since the death of Freddie Mercury that the rest of the group came together. At the end of 1997, Elton John lost two very close friends: designer Gianni Versace (who was murdered) and Princess Diana, who died in a car accident in Paris.

In early September, Bernie Topin finalized the lyrics of Candle In The Wind for a special ceremony commemorating Diana's death, and Elton John sang it during the funeral ceremony at Westminster Abbey. The song became the fastest-selling and best-selling single in the history of pop music. Total sales in the UK alone reached 5 million copies, in the US 11 million, and worldwide sales totaled about 33 million copies. The profits from the sales of this disc, which amounted to approximately £55 million, were sent to the Princess Diana Memorial Fund. The singer subsequently won a Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocalist with this song. He never performed this version of the song again, repeatedly stressing that the song could only be sung once, to remain special.

In 1998 a CD of music for the musical Aida (Elaborate Lives: The Legend of Aida) is released, on which Elton John worked with Tim Rice. The first theatrical performance of the musical took place in Atlanta, with later performances in Chicago and on Broadway in New York.

The first decade of the 21st century was marked for Elton John by numerous collaborations with other artists and figures of modern pop culture. In 2000, Elton John and Tim Rice teamed up again, to work on the music for the new animated film The Road to El Dorado. This year a CD of his Elton John One Night Only - The Greatest Hits concert, which took place last year at Madison Square Garden Concert Hall in New York City, is released.

In 2001, he made a statement that Songs From The West Coast, moaned his last studio album, and that from then on he would concentrate only on live performances. In 2004, however, Elton John releases his next studio album, Peach Road.

In 2001, Elton John received an invitation to participate in a BBC television show called Have I Got News For You. He initially gave his consent, but at the last moment he changed his mind and withdrew from the program. It happened just a few hours before the program aired, and the producers had to invite Ray Johnson, a cab driver from Holchester who sometimes appeared as an Elton John impersonator. He barely spoke a word during the program, but when the program aired 24 hours later, his name was in the credits and Elton John's name was removed. In the same year, a film was made that told the story of the singer's career from the moment he appeared on stage, until the early 2000s. This film was called The Elton John Story, and ran on VH-1 Classic, but it was never released on a separate disc or cassette.

In 2001, Elton John performed a duet with Eminem of his song Stan at the Grammy Awards. The song later appeared on Eminem's album Curtain Call: The Hits. Prior to that, public opinion considered Eminem a homophobe, but after collaborating with Elton John, that opinion changed somewhat. That same year he sang Friends for the movie The Country Bears, and also played a cameo in the movie.

In 2002 the British band Blue released their rendition of Elton John's song Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word, in the recording of which the singer also took part. This song got the first place in the British charts, as well as in some other European countries. Besides this, Elton John contributed to the success of 2Pac's band in 2005 when their song Ghetto Gospel got the first place in the singles chart. This song uses an excerpt from Elton John's song Indian Sunset, from his 1971 album Madman Across The Water. The song Indian Sunset was subsequently featured on Elton John's new single Electricity, which the singer wrote in 2005 for the Billy Elliot production The Musical. The marketing plan for the new single was organized very unusually and efficiently. More than 75% of sales came from online downloads, after users accessed it by taking a quiz and answering questions via cell phone text messages. Electricity is still one of Elton John's most successful solo singles of the 2000s.

However, Elton John's greatest success in the first decade of the XXI century must be the song Are You Ready For Love. This song went virtually unnoticed when it first appeared in the late 1970s, but when it was re-released in 2003, it immediately hit the top of the charts.

Returning again to the music that Elton John has written for musicals and productions, in addition to the music for Billy Elliot The Musical, he was involved, along with Bernie Topine, in the production of Lestad: The Musical, based on the novel by Anne Rice. However, this production was met with hostility from critics, and was closed after 39 performances. In addition, his music has been used extensively in films. One of his songs Tiny Dancer, recorded in 1970, was used in the movie Almost Famous, released in 2002. Another of his songs, The Heart Of Every Girl, was used in the movie Mona Lisa Smile in 2003.

On July 2nd, 2005 Elton John took part in the famous Live 8 concert in London's Hyde Park. The same year the singer recorded a duet with the Australian country music singer Katherine Britt called Where We Both Say Goodbye. The song climbed to #38 on Billboard's country music chart.

On November 10, 2005, his compilation album Elton John's Christmas Party was released, for which he performed two songs and artists he selected took part in recording the rest. The album was originally sold through the Starbucks chain of cafes, with two dollars from each sale going to his AIDS charity (Elton John AIDS Foundation). On October 10, 2006, the album went onsale to the public but six songs of the original list of 21 songs were dropped. On February 7, 2006, a tribute album recorded by a number of artists at Studio 99, titled The Timeless Classics Of Elton John Performed By Studio 99, was released.

On September 19, 2006, Elton John and Topping, BernieBernie Topping released another collaborative CD, which was like a logical follow-up to the famous Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy album, titled The Captain & The Kid. This album included 10 new songs. It was also interesting in that, for the first time ever, Elton John and Bernie Topin's photos were on the disc at the same time. The album has been greeted with critical acclaim, and has so far sold around 3,5 million copies worldwide.

In 1976, during an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, he officially announced his bisexuality. On February 14, 1984, he married sound engineer Rinata Blauel. Four years later they divorced. A little later he announced that he was homosexual rather than bisexual.

In 1993 he met his future husband David Furness. In 2004, the Civil Status Act was ratified, introducing the concept of "same-sex marriage" into law. Elton was one of the first to take advantage of the opportunity to legalize homosexual relationships. On December 21, 2005, John and Furnash entered into a prenuptial agreement and had a grand wedding. Only close friends and relatives were invited to Windsor, where Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles had previously been married. The press were not allowed to attend the ceremony. In the evening, a banquet was held at Berkshire Manor where more than 700 people were invited, including celebrity friends of Elton and David. Celebrity guests such as Brian May, Elizabeth Hurley and Ozzy Osbourne were invited.

At the moment Elton John has released 29 studio albums, 128 singles, he has composed music for several movies, animation films and plays. Numerous compilations of his best songs have been released, as well as albums of his works performed by other artists. In addition, there are a number of videocassettes and DVDs of his concert performances and music videos on the market.

Show more info