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John, Elton

Elton John

Singer, songwriter, pianist

For the Record

The Rocketman Shoots to Stardom

Made Top of the Charts

Sought Treatment for Addictions

Selected discography

Sources

Few pop stars have been so successful for so long as British rocker Elton John. Since bursting onto the music scene with his album Elton John in 1970, the flamboyant singer has placed 24 albums on the charts over a 15-year period while also generating 30 Top 40 hit singles. He has released at least one Top 40 single every year from 1970 to 1997. Only Elvis Presley rivaled John for popularity as a solo act in the United States, and John has managed to keep audiences coming back for more even as he evolved from the outrageous stage persona that earned him the nickname rocks Liberace to a more sedate performer in recent years.

Born Reginald Kenneth Dwight in a North London suburb, John was an only child who showed early musical talent. He learned to play piano by ear at the age of four, and soon became adept at playing a wide range of classical pieces. His talent won him a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music in London, which he attended on weekends from the age of eleven to 16. Music proved more than just a talent for John; it was also a refuge from a rather sad childhood. He suffered from a terrible inferiority complex and had a poor relationship with his father, who was a Royal Air Force squadron leader. He never let me do anything that I wanted, John told the New York Times in 1971. I couldnt even play in the garden I used to pray that my father wouldnt come home at the weekends.

After his parents divorced when John was a teenager, his father tried to talk his son out of pursuing a career in pop music while his mother fully supported his quest. Johns mother fueled his interest in rock music by bringing home records by Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, and other American rock and roll stars of the time. In 1961 he joined Bluesology, the group that backed singer John Baldry. As a teenager John also performed solo at a local hotel. (Johns later changing of his name was the result of his combining the names of John Baldry and Bluesologys saxophonist Elton Dean.)

John quit school at age 17 so that he could focus completely on his music, and he played in various rock and blues bands during the next several years. During the day he found employment as an errand boy for a London publishing house. As Johns musical talent grew, he became frustrated with Baldrys domination of Bluesology. He tried out for lead vocalist positions with King Crimson and Gentle Giant, but was rejected by both bands.

A crucial juncture in Johns career was when he answered an ad for songwriters run by Liberty Records. Answering the same ad was Bernie Taupin, who Liberty teamed up with John to write commercial jingles as well

For the Record

Born Reginald Kenneth Dwight on March 25, 1947, in Pinner, Middlesex, United Kingdom; son of Stanley (a Royal Air Force squadron leader) and Sheila Eileen Dwight; married Renate Blauel, February 14, 1984 (divorced, 1988). Education: Royal Academy of Music, 195964.

Won scholarship to Londons Royal Academy of Music as a youth; began playing piano with Bluesology, 1961; quit high school to focus on music, 1964; hired by Liberty Records to write songs with Bernie Taupin, 1967; released first single, Ive Been Loving You, 1968; released first album, Empty Sky, 1969; first performed in U.S., 1970; had first charting single, Your Song, 1970; had first number-one hit, Crocodile Rock, 1972; founded Rocket Records, 1973; appeared in film version of the Whos Tommy, 1974; signed contract with Geffen Records, 1981; first Western rock star to perform in Moscow, Soviet Union; had throat operation, 1987; sought treatment for drug and alcohol addictions, 1990; set up Elton John AIDS Foundation, 1992; signed major publishing contract with Warner/Chappell Music, along with Bernie Taupin, 1992; collaborated with lyricist Tim Rice on songs for The Lion King, 1994; went on 41-concert world tour, 1995; began working with Tim Rice on music for a musical, 1996; performed Candle in the Wind 1997 at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, 1997.

Awards: Grammy Award, Best Male Vocal Performance, and Academy Award, Best Original Song (both for Can You Feel the Love Tonight from The Lion King), 1994; Lifetime Achievement Award, British music industry, 1995.

Addresses: Record company Geffen Records, 1755 Broadway, Sixth Floor, New York, NY 10019.

as songs for artists such as Engelbert Humperdinck and Lulu. Before long, John and Taupin began to feel stifled creatively, and they began working together on their own songs, primarily romantic ballads. Most of their early work was done through mail correspondence, and they didnt meet face to face for many months after they started working together. Taupin wrote the lyrics first, then John would compose music for them with remarkable speedsometimes in less than an hour. During his years of composing with Taupin, John often took as little as two days to compose songs for an entire album. As John noted in the New Yorker, I get a lyric form Mr. Taupin, and look at it, and decide if its going to be a fast song, a slow song, or a medium-pace song, and then I sit at a keyboard, sometimes with a drum machine, and write a melody. Hes got these hooks and turns, noted Taupin about John in the same article. Instead of taking the path of least resistanceletting the melody line resolve in the obvious wayhe goes against the grain. Hell do something melodically that you wont expect.

Eventually John cut a demo of one of their songs, which was rejected by Liberty but attracted the interest of Beatles music publisher Dick James. James signed the pair to a songwriting contract that gave them an income of about ten pounds (or $25) a week in 1968. The move would prove a gold mine for James, who owned all John-Taupin songs until 1975. By 1968 John and Taupin had shifted to a more rock-and-roll mode. Their first song with James was Ive Been Loving You, which was produced by former Bluesology guitaristand later guitarist for JohnCaleb Quaye. Johns 1969 single Lady Samantha on the Philips label sold poorly. Next he recorded the album Empty Sky in a London basement at a cost of just $1200, but that release also generated little interest. Attention came Johns way with the release of the Elton John LP in 1969. The album features a lush sound with elaborate string arrangements scored and arranged by Paul Buckmaster. Critics lauded the album, although some thought it was overproduced. By the summer of 1970, with the touching ballad Your Song from the album climbing the charts in England and the United States, John was on his way to stardom.

The Rocketman Shoots to Stardom

Johns fame accelerated rapidly after he began performing in the United States for the first time in 1970, starting with a gig at the Troubadour Club in Los Angeles. He hid his shyness on stage by assuming an outrageous stage personality, wearing outlandish clothes and leaping around as he played the piano. The result was electric, and he became a pop sensation as he performed in other rock halls across the United States. His increasing visibility also helped his album move up the charts on the American hit parade. By the time John returned to England, he was a major star there as well.

Johns next album, Tumbleweed Connection, was centered on a theme of the historical American South and West. It featured less heavy orchestration then the previous album, and was also well-received. After his Friends soundtrack album for the film of the same name proved somewhat of a dud in 1971, John returned to the Top 10 with Madman Across the Water. Then he struck major gold with Honky Chateau in 1972, which demonstrated a greater range of Johns talents and contained the mega-hits Rocket Man and Honky Cat. John proved adept at making hits out of any kind of song, from heartfelt ballads to whimsical ditties. Meanwhile, his concert attire grew more and more bizarre, as he pranced on the stage wearing everything from huge feather boas to simulated astronaut suits. A trademark of the performer was his seemingly endless collection of crazy eyeglasses, which by the early 1970s was estimated to be worth some $40,000.

Made Top of the Charts

John continued his pop reign in the early 1970s with his 1973 release Dont Shoot Me, Im Only the Piano Player, whose Crocodile Rock earned the singer his first number-one American hit. One of the most endearing melodies of the album, and perhaps his career, was the number-two hit Daniel. By this time any new release by John resulted in a stampede to the record stores. His next album, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, sold two million copies in the United States within six months of its release in the fall of 1973. That album produced another number-one hit with Bennie and the Jets. Throughout this period Johns band remained stable, consisting of bassist Dee Murray and drummer Nigel Olsson. David Johnson came on board as guitarist in 1972.

In 1974 John once again proved his skill at shifting between gentle and raucous with Caribou, whose melodies ranged from the sensitive Dont Let the Sun Go Down on Me to the foot-stomping The Bitch is Back. That same year he appeared on the big screen as the Pinball Wizard in Ken Russells film adaptation of the Whos rock opera Tommy. When John released his Greatest Hits album in late 1974, he certainly had the singles to back up the title, and the album soared to number one in the U.S. and England. By this time John also had his own record label called Rocket Records, but he continued to release his recordings on MCA. Key artists on Johns label included Neil Sedaka, Kiki Dee (who sang with John on the hit Dont Go Breaking My Heart in 1976), and Cliff Richard.

After the release of Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy in 1975which became the first LP to enter the U.S. charts at the number-one positionthere was a change in personnel in Johns band, with Johnston remaining and the addition of Quaye, Roger Pope, and bassist Kenny Pasarelli for his 1975 album Rock of the Westies.

Citing exhaustion as a factor, John curtailed his busy concert schedule as well as his composing after 1976. Strains in the John-Taupin partnership began to develop following the release of Blue Moves in 1976, and Taupin began working with other musicians. John worked with lyricist Gary Osborne for his 1978 release A Single Man, but the album featured no Top 20 singles. He soon returned to live performances after this album hit the stores, and teamed up with Taupin again for 1980s 21 at 33, which brought him back into the Top 10 with the number-three hit Little Jeannie. That release turned out to be his last on MCA, as he switched to Geffen Records in 1981.

The next few years were quiet by John standards and short on hits, but he still drew big crowds to his concert appearances. MTV helped him regain his high profile by extensive play of a video for Im Still Standing from his Too Low for Zero LP in 1983. In 1984 he claimed that he was through with touring, but then changed his mind again. He continued to churn out hits through much of the 1980s with songs such as Sad Songs (Say So Much) in 1984, Nikita in 1986, Candle in the Wind in 1987, and Dont Wanna Go On with You Like That in 1988. Although he had a throat operation in early 1987, it seemed to have minimal effect on his singing or career. He made a break from his overindulgent past in 1988 when he arranged with Sothebys to auction off his theatrical costumes, much of his memorabilia, and his massive record collection.

Sought Treatment for Addictions

John began revealing to the public that he had been abusing drugs and alcohol for many years, and he sought treatment for his addictions at the Parkside Lutheran Hospital starting in 1990. Two years later he started up the Elton John Aids Foundation and stated that he would give all royalties from his single sales to AIDS research. A more restrained John still captivated the fans, as he proved with his number-eight charting album The One in 1992. He and Taupin secured a major publishing arranged with Wagner/Chapel Music that year for a price tag estimated at $39 million. A collaboration with lyricist Tim Rice on songs for The Lion King in 1994 won John new legions of fans, as well as an Academy Award for Best Original Song and a Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. The next year he embarked on a 41-concert world tour, seeming to have a renewed source of performance energy.

Steady sales of his recordings have secured Johns position as one of the richest people in Britain, with an estimated net worth of $286 million in 1995, according to an article in Macleans. As of 1996 he was working on a musical with Tim Rice and showed no signs of retiring from a pop career that had endured with only a few setbacks for more than a quarter century.

The night of August 31, 1997, John lost a close and dear friend when Diana, Princess of Wales was fatally injured in a tragic car crash in Paris. Dianas sister, Lady Sarah McCorquodale, invited John to perform at the funeral. He decided to sing Candle in the Wind. John again teamed up with Taupin, who quickly revised the lyrics in time for the funeral on September 6, 1997. Johns tribute to the former Princess was performed at Westminster Abbey in front of an estimated 2.5 billion people who viewed the broadcast live on television. Candle in the Wind 1997, as it was renamed, arrived in record stores in the United Kingdom on September 13 and in the United States ten days later. Profits from the song go to the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund.

Selected discography

Singles

Your Song, 1970.

Rocket Man, 1972.

Crocodile Rock, 1972.

Bennie and the Jets, 1974.

Philadelphia Freedom, 1975.

Dont Go Breaking My Heart, 1976.

Little Jeannie, 1979.

I Guess Thats Why They Call It The Blues, 1983.

Sad Songs (Say So Much), 1984.

Thats What Friends Are For [with Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder, and Gladys Knight], 1985.

Nikita, 1985.

Candle In The Wind, 1987.

I Dont Wanna Go On With You Like That, 1988.

Healing Hands, 1989.

The One, 1992.

Simple Life, 1993.

Believe, 1995.

Candle In The Wind 1997 (a tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales), 1997.

Albums

Empty Sky, MCA/DAM, 1969.

Elton John, MCA, 1970.

Tumbleweed Connection, MCA/DAM, 1970.

17-11-70, MCA, 1971.

Friends (soundtrack), Paramount, 1971.

Madman across the Water, MCA, 1971.

Honky Chateau, MCA/DAM, 1972.

Dont Shoot Me, Im Only the Piano Player, MCA, 1973.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, MCA/DAM, 1973.

Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, MCA/DAM, 1974.

Caribou, MCA, 1974.

Greatest Hits, 1974.

Rock of the Westies, MCA, 1975.

Here and There, MCA, 1976.

Blue Moves, MCA, 1976.

Greatest Hits 2, MCA, 1977.

A Single Man, MCA, 1978.

Victim of Love, MCA, 1979.

Live Collection, Pickwick, 1979.

21 at 33, MCA, 1980.

The Fox, Geffen, 1981.

Jump Up!, Geffen, 1982.

Too Low for Zero, Geffen, 1983.

Breaking Hearts, Geffen, 1983.

Ice on Fire, Geffen, 1983.

Leather Jackets, Geffen, 1985.

Your Songs, MCA, 1986.

Greatest Hits 3, Geffen, 1987.

Leather Jackets, Geffen, 1987.

Live in Australia, MCA, 1987.

Reg Strikes Back, MCA, 1988.

Sleeping with the Past, MCA, 1989.

The Complete Thorn Bell Sessions, MCA, 1989.

To Be Continued, MCA, 1990.

Greatest Hits, 1976-1986, Geffen, 1992.

Rare Masters, Polygram, 1992.

The One, MCA, 1992.

Duets, MCA, 1993.

The Lion King (soundtrack), Disney, 1995.

Made in England, Rocket/Island, 1995.

Love Songs, Rocket, 1996.

The Big Picture, Rocket, 1997.

Sources

Books

Clarke, Donald, editor, The Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Viking, 1989, pp. 611-612.

Clifford, Mike, consultant, The Harmony Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, Sixth Edition, Harmony Books, 1988.

Nits, Norm N., Rock On: The Years of Change 1964-1978, Updated Edition, Harper & Row, 1984, pp. 329-331.

Norman, Philip, Elton John, Harmony Books, 1992.

Romanowsky, Patricia, and Holly George-Warren, editors, The New Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, Rolling Stone Press, 1995, pp. 948-949.

Periodicals

Macleans, March 13, 1995.

New York Times, August 22, 1971.

New Yorker, August 26, 1996, pp. 106111.

Rolling Stone, November 21, 1974, p. 40.

Time, March 13, 1995, p. 98.

Additional information for this profile was obtained from the All-Music Guide website on the Internet.

Ed Decker

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John, Elton

Elton John

Singer, songwriter, pianist

Few pop stars have been so successful for so long a time as has British rocker Elton John. Since bursting onto the music scene with his album Elton John in 1970, the flamboyant singer has placed dozens of albums on the charts while also generating a succession of top 40 hit singles, releasing at least one every year from 1970 to 1997. Only Elvis Presley rivaled John for popularity as a solo act in the United States, even as he has evolved from the outrageous stage persona that earned him the nickname "rock's Liberace" to a more restrained performer in the early 2000s.

Born Reginald Kenneth Dwight in a North London suburb, John was an only child who showed early musical talent. He learned to play piano by ear at the age of four, and soon became adept at playing a wide range of classical pieces. His talent won him a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music in London, which he attended on weekends from the age of 11 to 16. Music proved more than just a talent for John; it was also a refuge from a sad childhood. He suffered from a terrible inferiority complex and had a poor relationship with his father, who was a Royal Air Force squadron leader.

His parents divorced when John was a teenager. John's father tried to talk his son out of pursuing a career in pop music, while his mother fully supported his quest. John's mother fueled his interest in rock music by bringing home records by Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, and other American rock and roll stars of the time. In 1961 he joined Bluesology, the group that backed singer John Baldry. (John's later name change was the result of combining the names of John Baldry and Bluesology's saxophonist Elton Dean.) John quit school at age 17 so that he could focus completely on his music, and played in various rock and blues bands during the next several years. He tried out for lead vocalist positions with King Crimson and Gentle Giant, but was rejected by both bands.

At a crucial juncture in his career, John answered an ad for songwriters run by Liberty Records. Answering the same ad was Bernie Taupin, and Liberty teamed the two to write commercial jingles as well as songs for artists such as Englebert Humperdinck and Lulu. Before long John and Taupin began working together on their own songs, primarily romantic ballads. Taupin wrote the lyrics first, then John would compose music for them with remarkable speed, sometimes in less than an hour. During his years of composing with Taupin, John often took as little as two days to compose songs for an entire album. As he noted in the New Yorker, "I get a lyric from Mr. Taupin, and look at it, and decide if it's going to be a fast song, a slow song, or a medium-pace song, and then I sit at a keyboard, sometimes with a drum machine, and write a melody." In the same article Taupin noted, "Instead of taking the path of least resistance–letting the melody line resolve in the obvious way—he goes against the grain. He'll do something melodically that you won't expect."

Eventually John cut a demo of one of their songs, which attracted the interest of Beatles' music publisher Dick James. James signed the pair to a songwriting contract that gave them an income of about ten pounds (or $25) a week in 1968. The move would prove a gold mine for James, who owned all John-Taupin songs until 1975. By 1968 John and Taupin had shifted to a more rock-and-roll mode. Their first song with James was "I've Been Loving You," which was produced by former Bluesology guitarist Caleb Quaye. Attention came John's way with the release of the Elton John LP in 1969. Critics lauded the album, and by the summer of 1970, with the album's touching ballad "Your Song" from the album climbing the charts in England and the United States, John was on his way to stardom.

"Rocket Man" Shot to Stardom

John's fame accelerated rapidly after he began performing in the United States in 1970, starting with a gig at the Troubadour Club in Los Angeles. He hid his shyness on stage by assuming an outrageous stage personality, wearing outlandish clothes and leaping around as he played the piano. The result was electric, and he became a pop sensation as he performed in other rock halls across the United States. His increasing visibility also helped his album move up the charts on the American hit parade. By the time John returned to England, he was a major star there as well.

John reached the top ten with Madman Across the Water. Then he struck major gold with Honky Chateau in 1972, which contained the mega-hits "Rocket Man" and "Honky Cat." John proved adept at making hits out of any kind of song, from heartfelt ballads to whimsical ditties. Meanwhile, his concert attire grew more and more outlandish, as he pranced onstage wearing everything from huge feather boas to simulated astronaut suits. A trademark of the performer was his seemingly endless collection of crazy eyeglasses, which by the early 1970s was estimated to be worth some $40,000.

For the Record . . .

Born Reginald Kenneth Dwight on March 25, 1947, in Pinner, Middlesex, United Kingdom; son of Stanley (a Royal Air Force squadron leader) and Sheila Eileen Dwight; married Renate Blauel, February 14, 1984 (divorced, 1988). Education: Attended Royal Academy of Music, 1959-64.

Won scholarship to London's Royal Academy of Music as a youth; began playing piano with Bluesology, 1961; quit high school to focus on music, 1964; hired by Liberty Records to write songs with Bernie Taupin, 1967; signed songwriting contract with Dick James, 1968; released first single, "I've Been Loving You," 1968; released first album, Empty Sky, 1969; had first charting single, "Your Song," 1970; had first number one hit, "Crocodile Rock," 1972; founded Rocket Records, 1973; appeared in film version of the Who's opera Tommy, 1974; appeared in John Lennon's last concert, 1975; worked for first time with lyricist Gary Osborne, 1978; signed contract with Geffen Records, 1981; first Western rock star to perform in Moscow, Soviet Union; had throat operation, 1987; sought treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, 1990; set up Elton John AIDS Foundation, 1992; signed major publishing contract with Warner/Chappell Music (with Taupin), 1992; collaborated with lyricist Tim Rice on songs for The Lion King, 1994; went on 41-concert world tour, 1995; performed "Candle in the Wind 1997" at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales; toured in 1996, 1998, 2001, and 2002 with Billy Joel, in reprises of 1995 "Face to Face" tour.

Awards: Grammy Award, Best Male Vocal Performance, and Academy Award, Best Original Song, both for "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" from The Lion King, 1994; Lifetime Achievement Award, British music industry, 1995; knighted by Queen Elizabeth, 1998; Grammy Award, Lifetime Achievement, 2000; Tony Award for Best Original Score, for Aida 2000; Radio Music Legend Award, 2001; MusicCares Person of the Year, 2001.

Addresses: Record company—Universal Music Group, 2220 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90404, and 1755 Broadway, New York, NY, 10019. Management—Twenty-First Artists Limited, 1 Bylthe Rd., Olympia, London W14 OHG, England.

Reached Top of Charts

John continued his pop reign with the 1973 release Don't Shoot Me, I'm Only the Piano Player, whose "Crocodile Rock" earned the singer his first numberone American hit. One of the most endearing melodies of the album, and perhaps of his career, was the number-two hit "Daniel." By this time, any new release by John resulted in a stampede to the record stores. His next album, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, sold two million copies in the United States within six months of its release in the fall of 1973. That album produced another number-one hit with "Bennie and the Jets." Throughout this period John's band remained stable, consisting of bassist Dee Murray and drummer Nigel Olsson. Davey Johnstone came on board as guitarist in 1972. John's albums also became known for elaborate packaging, which included photography and lyric booklets as well as expensively produced gatefold cover artwork.

In 1974 John once again proved his skill at shifting between gentle and raucous with Caribou, whose melodies ranged from the sensitive "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" to the foot-stomping "The Bitch is Back." That same year he filmed a guest-starring role on the big screen as the Pinball Wizard in Ken Russell's film adaptation of the Who's rock opera Tommy. His Greatest Hits album in 1974 soared to number one in the United States and England. John's string of hits in 1975 also included his rollicking version of the Who's "Pinball Wizard." The Who returned the compliment by revving up John's "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" and "Take Me to the Pilot" as a medley on the 1990s' tribute album to John and Taupin, Two Rooms.

Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, released in the spring of 1975, became the first LP to enter the U.S. charts at the number one position. The album yielded two moderately successful hit singles, "Someone Saved My Life Tonight," which recounted a suicide attempt by John after the breakup of an affair, and "Meal Ticket," which may be the hardest-rocking song John ever recorded. After the release of Captain Fantastic, there was a change in personnel in John's band, with Johnston remaining, and the addition of Quaye, Roger Pope, and bassist Kenny Pasarelli for his 1975 album Rock of the Westies. That year also proved to be pivotal on a personal level, as John admitted to his own bisexuality in an interview in Rolling Stone magazine.

Citing exhaustion as a factor, John curtailed his busy concert schedule as well as his composing after 1976. Strains in the John-Taupin partnership developed following the release of the double album Blue Moves in 1976, and Taupin began working with other musicians, including Alice Cooper and Jefferson Starhip. John worked with lyricist Gary Osborne for his 1978 release A Single Man, and in 1977 he realized his dream of recording with legendary Philadelphia soul producer Thom Bell. The collaboration between the two yielded the The Thom Bell Sessions EP (1979), which featured the hit single "Mama Can't Buy You Love." John reteamed with Taupin for 1981's 21 at 33, which brought him back into the top 10 with the number three hit "Little Jeannie."

The next few years were quiet by John standards and short on hits, but he still drew big crowds to his concert appearances. He had an operation to remove nodes from his vocal cords in early 1987, but it seemed to have a minimal effect on his singing career.

Sought Treatment for Addictions

John revealed that he had been abusing alcohol and other drugs for many years, and he sought treatment for his addictions at the Parkside Lutheran Hospital starting in 1990. Two years later he started up the Elton John AIDS Foundation, and stated that he would give all royalties from his singles' sales to AIDS research. A more restrained John still captivated his fans, as he proved with his number-eight charting album The One in 1992. He and Taupin secured a major publishing arrangement with Wagner/Chapel Music that year for a price tag estimated at $39 million. A collaboration with lyricist Tim Rice on songs for the Disney film The Lion King in 1994 won John new legions of fans, as well as an Academy Award for Best Original Song and a Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. The next year he embarked on a 41-concert world tour, seeming to have found a renewed source of performance energy.

Steady sales of his recordings secured John's position as one of the richest people in Britain, with an estimated net worth of $286 million in 1995, according to an article in Maclean's. In 1996 he began work on a musical with Tim Rice, and showed no signs of retiring.

In August of 1997, after Diana, Princess of Wales was fatally injured in a car crash in Paris, her sister, Lady Sarah McCorquodale, invited John to perform at the funeral, and he again teamed with Taupin, who quickly revised the lyrics to "Candle in the Wind" for Elton to sing at the funeral. Profits from "Candle in the Wind 1997," as it was renamed, were designated to go to the Diana, Princess of Wales' Memorial Fund.

The advent of the third millennium found John continuing with his career and his philanthropic endeavors. His ongoing fund raising for the benefit of AIDS victims produced a series of benefit affairs, and his annual White Tie and Tiara Ball raised an impressive $1.4 million for that cause in the summer of 2001. He contributed compositions and soundtrack to the Dream-Works animated feature Road to El Dorado, which was released in 2000. Additionally, John was heard on Earl Scruggs and Friends which marked Scruggs's first recorded release in 17 years. John won a Tony Award in 2000 for the musical Aida, written in collaboration with Tim Rice. He again teamed with Taupin and earned his 35th gold record certification for the 2001 album Songs from the West Coast.

In 2004 John debuted his Las Vegas revue The Red Piano at Caesar's Palace. He also announced plans to write music for two musicals, Billy Elliott and an adaptation of Anne Rice's The Vampire Lestat. The latter is yet another collaboration with Taupin.

An honest assessment of John's career would place him among the top talents in pop music of the contemporary era. His body of work extends over more than 35 years and shows no signs of abating. He has created the melodies as well as recorded and performed some of pop music's most memorable songs, and as a pianist he is considered among rock music's premier musicians.

Selected discography

Singles

"Your Song," 1970.

"Rocket Man," 1972.

"Crocodile Rock," 1972.

"Bennie and the Jets," 1974.

"Philadelphia Freedom," 1975.

"Don't Go Breaking My Heart," 1976.

"Little Jeannie," 1979.

"I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues," 1983.

"Sad Songs (Say So Much)," 1984.

(With Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder, and Gladys Knight) "That's What Friends Are For," 1985.

"Nikita," 1985.

"Candle In The Wind," 1987.

"I Don't Wanna Go On With You Like That," 1988.

"Healing Hands," 1989.

"The One," 1992.

"Simple Life," 1993.

"Believe," 1995.

"Candle In The Wind 1997" (a tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales), 1997.

Albums

Empty Sky, MCA/DAM, 1969.

Elton John, MCA, 1970.

Tumbleweed Connection, MCA/DAM, 1970.

17-11-70, MCA, 1971.

Friends, Paramount, 1971.

Madman across the Water, MCA, 1971.

Honky Chateau, MCA/DAM, 1972.

Don't Shoot Me, I'm Only the Piano Player, MCA, 1973.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, MCA/DAM, 1973.

Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, MCA/DAM, 1974.

Caribou, MCA, 1974.

Greatest Hits, Polydor, 1974.

Rock of the Westies, MCA, 1975.

Here and There, MCA, 1976.

Blue Moves, MCA, 1976.

Greatest Hits 2, MCA, 1977.

A Single Man, MCA, 1978.

Victim of Love, MCA, 1979.

Live Collection, Pickwick, 1979.

21 at 33, MCA, 1980.

The Fox, Geffen, 1981.

Jump Up!, Geffen, 1982.

Too Low for Zero, Geffen, 1983.

Breaking Hearts, Geffen, 1983.

Ice on Fire, Geffen, 1983.

Leather Jackets, Geffen, 1985; reissued, 1987.

Your Songs, MCA, 1986.

Greatest Hits 3, Geffen, 1987.

Live in Australia, MCA, 1987.

Reg Strikes Back, MCA, 1988.

Sleeping with the Past, MCA, 1989.

The Complete Thom Bell Sessions, MCA, 1989.

To Be Continued..., MCA, 1990.

Greatest Hits, 1976-1986, Geffen, 1992.

Rare Masters, Polygram, 1992.

The One, MCA, 1992.

Duets, MCA, 1993.

(Contributor) The Lion King (soundtrack), Disney, 1995.

Made in England, Rocket/Island, 1995.

Love Songs, Rocket, 1996.

The Big Picture, Rocket, 1997.

Aida, Rocket/Island, 1999.

The Muse, Polygram, 1999.

Songs from the West Coast, Universal, 2001.

Peachtree Road, Universal, 2004.

Sources

Books

Clarke, Donald, editor, The Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Viking, 1989.

Clifford, Mike, consultant, The Harmony Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, Sixth Edition, Harmony, 1988.

Nits, Norm N., Rock On: The Years of Change 1964~1978, Updated Edition, Harper & Row, 1984.

Norman, Philip, Elton John, Harmony, 1992.

Romanowsky, Patricia, and Holly George-Warren, editors, The New Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, Rolling Stone Press, 1995.

Periodicals

Maclean's, March 13, 1995.

New York Times, August 22, 1971; July 6, 2001; October 21, 2001.

New Yorker, August 26, 1996, p. 106.

Rolling Stone, November 21, 1974, p. 40.

Sacramento Bee, December 4, 2001.

Time, March 13, 1995, p. 98.

Online

"Elton John," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (April 28, 2005).

"The Rocket Man Blasts Off," Entertainment Weekly,http://www.ew.com (Dec. 28, 2004).

—Ed Decker andBruce Walker

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Elton John

Elton John

Once famed for his campy outrageousness and string of successful pop songs, English musician Elton John (born 1947) has more recently made a name for himself as a humanitarian with a particular interest in supporting AIDS research.

Ever since he first burst on the music scene in the early 1970s, Elton John has been alternately adored, abhorred, commended, and criticized. At one time, his image was that of a flamboyantly over-the-top "glam rocker" with an undeniable gift for crafting memorable pop tunes. His spectacular theatrics may have earned him legions of fans and a generous income, but they also thrust him into the media spotlight on numerous occasions as reporters scrutinized his sexual orientation, his lavish lifestyle, his addictions to drugs and alcohol, and his bulimia.

As he approached middle age, however, John began to take stock of his life and career. He toned down the glitz and glitter both on stage and off, overcame his dependencies and eating disorder, and turned his attention to concerns other than himself. Since the early 1990s, he has donated all of the royalties from the sales of his singles to charity (most notably AIDS research) in both the United Kingdom and the United States. (His poignant tribute to his friend Diana, Princess of Wales, who died in a car crash during the summer of 1997, became the number-one selling single of all time, with proceeds earmarked for the charitable trust established in Diana's name.) As a result, John has finally been able to lay to rest much of the controversy and negative press that dogged him earlier in his career.

John was born Reginald Kenneth Dwight on March 25, 1947, in the town of Pinner in the Middlesex region of England. An only child who was somewhat overweight and wore glasses, he was acutely sensitive to his appearance and how others perceived him. "Image" thus became an obsession of John's at a young age and remained an issue well into his adulthood.

Decided on a Career in Music

John embarked on a musical career in the early 1960s. He was just two weeks away from taking his final exams and graduating from the London Academy of Music when he quit school to pursue his dream. He first went to work for a music publishing house, where he served as a messenger and tea server. To supplement his income, John also played the piano in bars and clubs and eventually joined forces with a band called Bluesology.

Bluesology had some success backing up soul artists such as Doris Troy and Patti LaBelle until around the mid-1960s. It was during this same period that John picked up his stage name, which was a combination of the middle name of Bluesology's singer, Long John Baldry, and the first name of the saxophone player, Elton Dean. Much later in his life, John added the middle name Hercules.

In 1968, an advertisement in the British music magazine NME seeking writers and performers brought John together with Bernie Taupin, the man who would become his on-again, off-again songwriting collaborator. One of their earliest pieces managed to land on the short list for the British entry to the 1969 Eurovision contest. Even though they lost out when it was not chosen to be performed, they continued to write and record new material, including the early singles "Skyline Pigeon" and "Lady Samantha, " which sold moderately well. In 1969, John released his debut album, Empty Sky, which was a commercial flop. That same year, he played piano on the classic Hollies single, "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother."

Logged His First Big Hit

The advent of the 1970s saw John's fortunes improve dramatically. His self-titled second album spawned his first hit single, "Your Song, " which climbed into the top ten in both America and the United Kingdom. But the watershed year for John was 1972. "Rocket Man" was his first number-one single in America. (It topped out at number two in England.) Other smash singles soon followed, including "Daniel" and "Crocodile Rock, " both of which appeared on the album Don't Shoot Me, I'm Only the Piano Player-John's first number-one album in both the United States and the United Kingdom. The seminal double album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was released in 1973. Besides the classic title track, it contained "Candle in the Wind, " a winsome ode to Marilyn Monroe. That same year, John launched his own record label, Rocket Records.

As his sales soared, John cultivated a colorfully outrageous and campy stage persona that drove audiences wild and provided plenty of fodder for the tabloids. Outlandish glasses (the more bizarre the better) and elaborate costumes featuring rhinestones and feather boas soon came to define him as a performer, and he was dubbed the "Queen Mum of Pop." He also lived a private life of luxury and excess that included a fleet of pricey cars, expensive shopping sprees, several lavish homes, and relationships with both men and women, all of which was recounted in detail by the media.

By the mid-1970s, however, John's popularity had begun to decline a bit after he released a series of less-than-stellar albums. In 1975, he starred as the Pinball Wizard in the film adaptation of the Who's rock opera, Tommy. The following year, he charted his first British number-one single, "Don't Go Breaking My Heart, " a duet with Kiki Dee.

Turned His Back on the Music Business

In 1976, John decided to retire from the music business and focus his energies on running a soccer team he had purchased, the Watford Football Club. Around this same time, he publicly admitted his bisexuality. The ensuing controversy took its toll on John personally and professionally. As he remarked to People magazine reporters Fred A. Bernstein and Laura Sanderson Healy, "the gay business really hurt me. A lot of radio stations stopped playing my records." And when he attended Watford's soccer matches, he told Bernstein and Healy, "twenty thousand people would sing, 'Elton John's a homosexual, tra-la-la."' To help him deal with the pressures of fame and the pain of depression, he turned to alcohol and cocaine, which he continued to abuse throughout the rest of the 1970s and 1980s.

In 1978, having grown bored and restless with his new lifestyle, John sought to return to the pop arena. But finding the right collaborator proved to be a struggle until he once again hooked up with Taupin in 1983. It was during the studio sessions for an album he made that year, Too Low for Zero, that John met Renate Blauel, a German-born recording technician. John courted her while working on his album and, after a five-day engagement, married her in Australia on Valentine's Day in 1984.

The union was doomed from the start. The British press viciously attacked both the marriage and John, dwelling primarily on his checkered sexual history. After less than five years, the estranged couple amicably divorced. In a 1992 Los Angeles Times interview quoted by Caren Weiner of Entertainment Weekly, John explained that he had married Blauel while in a drug-induced stupor. "Even though I knew I was gay, " he explained, "I thought this woman was attractive and that being married would cure me of everything wrong in my life…. When you take that amount [of drugs and alcohol] you can't have any relationship."

Set New Priorities

The early 1990s saw John undergo treatment for alcoholism, drug abuse, and bulimia. Once he was clean and sober, he publicly acknowledged his homosexuality and refocused his energies and talents toward helping others. Starting in 1990, he donated all of his royalties from the sales of his English singles to charity, mostly those involved in AIDS research or in offering assistance to people with AIDS. Two years later, he did the same for the royalties from his single sales in America. "It's about time I got off my backside …, " John told Melinda Newman of Billboard. "We have a long way to go." In 1992, he established the Elton John AIDS Foundation to further his philanthropy.

As the 1990s progressed, John garnered increasing respect as both an artist and a humanitarian. He began accumulating numerous awards, including ASCAP honors as songwriter of the year (with his longtime collaborator Taupin) in 1994, induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, a lifetime achievement citation at the Brit Awards in 1995, the Royal Swedish Academy of Music's Polar Prize in 1995, Grammy Awards in 1995 and again in 1998, and an Academy Award in 1995, among others. In 1996, John was named Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) by Queen Elizabeth II.

Tragedy followed in 1997, however, when he lost two good friends in quick succession-fashion designer Gianni Versace, who was murdered in mid-July, and Diana, Princess of Wales, who died in a car accident in late August. John performed a reworked version of "Candle in the Wind" at her September funeral (which he vowed never to sing in public again), then released it as a single. Within just a short time it became the top-selling single of all time, with more than 30 million copies sold in 1997 alone. John donated all of the proceeds from the recording (which amounted to more than $47 million by the end of 1997) to the charitable trust established in Diana's name.

The phenomenal success of "Candle in the Wind 1997" earned John even more accolades, including Billboard awards for single of the year, singles artist of the year, and singles sales artist of the year. In early 1998, he was named favorite male adult contemporary artist at the American Music Awards, and at the 1998 Grammy Award ceremonies, he took home the trophy for best male pop vocal for "Candle in the Wind 1997." And to top it all off, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1998 for his achievements in music and contributions to charity. John reflected on this honor in an Associated Press report published in the Toledo Blade, remarking that "I've had a long career and worked hard. But I think the turning point came in 1990, when I got sober and started to do some charity work, particularly for the AIDS problem. A knighthood is the icing on the cake."

Further Reading

Newsmakers, 1995 Cumulation, Gale, 1995.

Billboard, October 17, 1992; May 21, 1994; May 20, 1995.

Entertainment Weekly, February 14, 1997, p. 76; December 26, 1997.

Maclean's, March 13, 1995, p. 62; December 22, 1997, p. 11; January 12, 1998, p. 9.

People, February 27, 1984, p. 79; November 12, 1984; September 8, 1986; December 5, 1988, p. 85.

Time, March 13, 1995.

Toledo Blade (Toledo, Ohio), February 25, 1998, p. 15.

"Elton John, " http://grove.ufl.edu/devseeff/bigpicture.html (March 3, 1998).

"Elton Hercules John, " http://www.public.usit.net/artboy/ejfan.html (March 3, 1998).

"Elton John, " http://www.roughguides.com/rock/entries/ELTONJOHN.html (March 3, 1998).

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John, Elton

ELTON JOHN

Born: Reginald Kenneth Dwight; Pinner, England, 25 March 1947

Genre: Rock, Pop

Best-selling album since 1990: Made in England (1995)

Hit songs since 1990: "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me," "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," "Candle in the Wind 1997"


From 1976 into the 1990s, Elton John managed to get a single into the Top 40 chart every year. His superb songwriting skills, charismatic performance techniques, and stylistic versatility have made him a leading pop superstar for three decades. Like most pop artists with that kind of longevity, he has endured his share of career peaks and slumps. Through the 1990s he gained back much of the popularity he had lost in the 1980s. For many his fame peaked when he responded to the tragic death of Princess Diana in 1997 with a re-recording of "Candle in the Wind," originally recorded on the death of another close friend. The success of this hit was overwhelming. It registered the quickest sales of any single ever released in the United Kingdom or the United States, where it sold more than 3 million copies in its first week of release.


Rising Star

Elton John's career as singer/songwriter started in the early 1960s, when he won a piano scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music in London at the age of eleven. Two weeks before his final exams, he abandoned his studies to pursue a career in show business, starting off as a messenger boy for a music publishing company. At the same time he earned extra money by performing with his band Bluesology, which backed up soul artists such as Patti LaBelle and Doris Troy. As early as 1967 his first success came with the chart single "Let the Heartaches Begin," sung by R&B singer Long John Baldry and backed by Bluesology.

Following this hit, John teamed up with lyricist Bernie Taupin to write pop songs for the Dick James Music (DJM) label. Their song, "I've Been Loving You," was performed by Lulu as her U.K. entry for the 1969 Eurovision Song Contest. Although this song did not win, it led to a contract with Columbia Records for singles such as "Skyline Pigeon." While this song would become a classic later, it sold poorly in the beginning and Gus Dudgeon, who produced his records through Blue Moves, was brought in. At this point, John turned to a style of writing that blended rock and gospel into ballads with spectacular arrangements.

In 1970, backed by former members of the Spencer Davis Group, with Dee Murray on bass and Nigel Olsson on drums, John broke into the U.S. scene in a live concert in Los Angeles. His flamboyant style of performance, with direct references to Jerry Lee Lewis, was an instant success and catapulted his album, Tumbleweed Connection, into the U.S. Top 10. The song "Your Song" contributed to the fast album sales. Before long, John had four albums in the U.S. Top 10 simultaneously, the first time this had happened since the Beatles.

Following the release of Madman Across the Water (1971), he formed his own group, the Elton John group, which included Olsson, Murray, and guitarist Davey Johnstone. In 1972 they released Honky Chateau, and from this point onward John's singles dominated the Top 10. Notably this album was the first of eight number one albums.

During the early to mid-1970s, it seemed that Elton John's success would never falter. His spectacular concerts became so legendary that they reached a peak when he invited John Lennon to appear with him at Madison Square Garden on Thanksgiving Day in 1974. John's songwriting collaboration with Taupin resulted in a string of Top 20 hits, including "Rocket Man," "Crocodile Rock," "Bennie and the Jets," "Daniel," "The Bitch Is Back," and "Philadelphia Freedom." All of these songs are in a rock and roll style accompanied by John's expressive and energetic piano playing. His eighth album, Honky Chateau, was the first of seven albums that reached number one and went platinum.


Career Detours

By 1977 the exhausting pace of John's concert tour, along with negative publicity surrounding his sexual preferences, prompted the singer to announce that he would retire from live performing. In 1978 he released the album A Single Man with Gary Osborne. Through the 1980s his musical output continued at a brisk pace, with one album released each year and each spawning a series of hits. At the same time he battled against drug addiction, bulimia, and alcohol abuse.

Comeback

By the beginning of the 1990s, John was able to turn around his personal problems. He also took a greater interest in public service with the establishment of the Elton John AIDS Foundation and a commitment to AIDS research. The album The One, released in 1992, became an instant success and helped lead to a publishing deal with Warner/Chappell music, a twelve-year agreement that involved the highest cash advance in the music industry until Robbie Williams surpassed it in a deal he signed in 2002. John's singing style throughout The One is warmly expressive, demonstrating a sensitivity for the lyrical sentiments through a control of register that is always reliable and convincing. Musically, the style on this album is laid back within an adult-oriented rock genre that affords the singer the opportunity to reflect. John claimed that this album was the first he released without alcohol or drugs, a circumstance that might account for the measured and poignant mood of all the songs.

A memorable event was John's performance at the Freddie Mercury Memorial and AIDS concert at Wembley Stadium in London in 1992, where he performed Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" with Axl Rose of Guns N' Roses. His duet with George Michael in the revival of "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" also proved a major highlight at this event. A collaboration with Tim Rice led to the release of songs for Disney's The Lion King. The song "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" became a huge success. Beautifully arranged, with padded out orchestration and cushy harmonies, this song demonstrates John's mastery at singing ballads. Not surprisingly, it won the Academy Award for Best Original Song and the Grammy for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance in 1994.

In 1995 the album Made in England sold well in the United States and Britain. With a style strongly influenced by John Lennon's solo ballads, Elton John again demonstrates his superb control of melodic flow against the backdrop of laid-back lyrics set to one-word titles such as "Cold," "Pain," "Blessed," and "Believe." The album's material is enhanced by the inclusion of musicians with whom John had previously worked, such as guitarist Davey Johnstone, percussionist Ray Cooper, and arranger/orchestrator Paul Buckmaster. There is a strong sense of thematic progression in the journey undertaken through all the songs, which are performed in a medley style that culminates in the upbeat final track, "Blessed." Following this album was The Big Picture, released in 1997, featuring the Top 10 hit "Something about the Way You Look Tonight." In 2002 John released Songs from the West Coast, a limited-edition collection. Featuring a range of familiar tracks, including John's three most recent hits, this album thrilled fans by including both songs and videos.

John's influence on pop artists is significant. Not only has he written songs for others, but he has also performed extensively on recordings by artists such as Bon Jovi, Rod Stewart, Tom Jones, Jackson Browne, Ringo Starr, Kevin Ayers, Rick Astley, the Hollies, and Blue Feat.

Elton John's flamboyant personality, glam-rock image, and soulful performance style have inspired generations of musicians working in the pop industry. In 1996, he was awarded a CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire), and he was knighted two years later, a testament to his iconic stature.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

Empty Sky (Rocket/Island, 1969); Elton John (Rocket/Island, 1970); Tumbleweed Connection (Rocket/Island, 1971); Madman Across the Water (Rocket/Island, 1971); Honky Chateau (Rocket/Island, 1972); Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player (Rocket/Island, 1973); Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Rocket/Island, 1973), Captain Fantastic & the Brown Dirt Cowboy (Rocket/Island, 1975); A Single Man (MCA, 1978); The Fox (MCA, 1981); Jump Up! (MCA, 1982); Too Low for Zero (MCA, 1983); Ice on Fire (MCA, 1985); Sleeping with the Past (MCA, 1989); Duets (MCA, 1993); Made in England (Rocket/Island, 1995); The Muse (Polygram, 1999); Prologue (MF, 2001); Songs from the West Coast (Universal, 2001).

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

B. Toberman, Elton John: A Biography (London, 1989); E. John and B. Taupin, Two Rooms: A Celebration of Elton John and Bernie Taupin (London, 1991); P. Norman, Sir Elton: The Definitive Biography of Elton John (London, 2000).

stan hawkins

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John, Elton

Elton John

Born: March 25, 1947
Pinner, Middlesex, England

English singer, songwriter, and humanitarian

Once famous for his flashy clothes and string of hit records, English rock musician Elton John has more recently become a humanitarian (one who works to promote human welfare) with a particular interest in supporting acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS; a disease that destroys the body's ability to fight infection) charities.

Early life

Elton John was born Reginald Kenneth Dwight on March 25, 1947, in the town of Pinner in Middlesex, England. An only child who was overweight and wore glasses, he was afraid of his father, a squadron leader (a ranking officer) with the Royal Air Force, whom he described as "very snobbish and sort of stiff." His mother Sheila, on the other hand, brought home records that introduced him to rock music. John taught himself to play the piano at the age of four. He studied at the London Academy of Music but quit two weeks before graduation to pursue a musical career. He worked for a music publishing company and also played the piano in bars, later joining a band called Bluesology. He created his stage name as a combination of the middle name of Bluesology's singer, Long John Baldry, and the first name of the saxophone player, Elton Dean. Later in his life, John added the middle name Hercules.

Recording career begins

In 1968 John met Bernie Taupin (1950), who became his long-term song-writing partner. John's first album, Empty Sky (1969), was a commercial failure. His second album contained "Your Song," a hit in both the United States and England. In 1972 "Rocket Man" became his first number-one single in America. Other hits followed, including "Daniel" and "Crocodile Rock" from the album Don't Shoot Me, I'm Only the Piano Player. The album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973) contained "Candle in the Wind," written about actress Marilyn Monroe (19261962). That same year, John launched his own record label, Rocket Records.

John became famous for his oversize glasses and outrageous outfits. He was called the "Queen Mum of Pop." He also enjoyed many expensive cars, large homes, and shopping sprees. In 1975 he starred as the Pinball Wizard in the film version of the rock opera Tommy. In 1976 a duet with Kiki Dee, "Don't Go Breaking My Heart," became his first British number-one single. His popularity then began to decline after a series of less successful albums. Admitting that he was attracted to both men and women further damaged his popularity, and he began abusing alcohol and drugs.

Although John continued performing during the 1980s, his drug and drinking problems had caused him to lose his magic touch. While recording Too Low for Zero in 1983, John met Renate Blauel, a German-born, recording-studio worker. They were married on Valentine's Day (February 14) 1984. The British press attacked both the marriage and John, focusing on his sexual history. After less than five years, the couple agreed to divorce.

Decides to help others

In the early 1990s John received treatment for alcoholism, drug abuse, and bulimia (an eating disorder). He admitted he was a homosexual (a man attracted to other men) and began to devote his energies toward helping others. Starting in 1990 he donated all of the profits from the sales of his singles to charity, mostly those associated with AIDS. In 1992 he established the Elton John AIDS Foundation. In 1994 he was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in 1995 he won an Academy Award.

In 1997 John was shaken by the death of his friend, Diana, Princess of Wales (19611997), in a car accident. John performed a new version of "Candle in the Wind" at her funeral. It sold more than thirty million copies after being released as a sigle. John donated all of the profits (more than $47 million) to the charity established in Diana's name. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II (1926) for his achievements in music and contributions to charity.

Honors and awards

In 2000 the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences honored John as Person of the Year for his charity work. Later that year, John and lyric writer Tim Rice wrote songs for the Broadway musical Aida (which won a Tony award) and the film The Road to El Dorado. John also sued the accounting firm (a company paid to verify and calculate business dealings) PriceWaterhouseCoopers and his former manager for $29 million, claiming they had stolen money from him.

John won a Grammy Award for best musical show album for Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida in February 2001. At the award show he performed with rap artist Eminem (1972), angering homosexual rights leaders who had criticized Eminem for his antigay lyrics. Later that year John released Songs from the West Coast, which many praised as a return to his "1970s sound."

For More Information

Bernardin, Claude, and Tom Stanton. Rocket Man: Elton John from A-Z. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1996.

Cassata, Mary Anne. The Elton John Scrapbook. New York: Citadel Press, 2002.

Norman, Philip. Elton John. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993.

Rosenthal, Elizabeth J. His Song: The Musical Journey of Elton John. New York: Billboard Books, 2001.

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John, Elton

Elton John

Singer, songwriter, pianist

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

Elton John emerged in the 1970s as a hugely successful pop performer, the kind of star who often flies high but fades fast. John, however, has been able to maintain his career for nearly twenty years, largely because his music has become the repository of a million escapist dreams, to quote Time correspondent David DeVoss. Once a flamboyant feather-clad rocker with several hundred pairs of gimmick glasses, John has entered midlife as a more sober but no less artistic performer who still generates hit records and sellout concert crowds. He is one of the rare pop singers who is able to reach mainstream audiences while still earning the respect of rock critics; this is because Johns original compositions exhibit piano virtuosity and an easy familiarity with rockabilly, gospel, blues, and both soft and classical rock. DeVoss calls John an entertainer of astonishing versatility whose appeal knows no demographic limits. DeVoss also finds John the symbol of the often battered, never completely shattered juvenile faith that no one is too short, too fat, too awkward or parentally despised to be transformed into someone who is not only famous and rich, butinfinitely more importantloved by the multitudes. The critic concludes that the central appeal of Johns music is its sweet, pensively expressed sense of sadness over human connections missed or lost.

Elton John was born Reginald Kenneth Dwight on March 25, 1947, in Pinner, Middlesex, England. He recalls his childhood as cheerless; he was overweight, unpopular, and plagued at home by a repressive father who wanted him to be a banker. Young Reg Dwight had one solacea love for music. He learned to play the piano at the age of four and earned a fellowship to the Royal Academy of Music at eleven. Predictably, his father banned pop and rock recordings from the home, but his mother smuggled them in anyway. I couldnt believe how great they were, John told Circus magazine. From then on rock n roll took over. I used to play Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard on the piano and just thump them out. At seventeen John dropped out of school to become a professional musician. He played piano for several bands in the London area, the most notable of which was Bluesology, the group that backed singer John Baldry. It was during this time that Reginald Dwight became Elton John by combining the two first names of performers he admiredBaldry and saxophonist Elton Dean. Changing the name helped me a lot, John told Circus. Im still the same person as Reg Dwight, but Elton John gave me a feeling of confidence.

Nobody expected Reg to become anything big, Baldry told Time. He was a shy person, almost introverted onstage. Bespectacled and obese, John had few illusions about his potential as well. Still, in 1967, he answered a trade paper ad for songwriters and composers

For the Record

Full name, Elton Hercules John; name originally Reginald Kenneth Dwight; born March 25, 1947, in Pinner, Middlesex, England; son of Stanley (a Royal Air Force squadron leader) and Sheila Eileen Dwight; married Renate Blavel, February 14, 1984 (divorced, 1988). Education: Attended Royal Academy of Music, 1959-64.

Member of group Bluesology, 1965-66; began writing songs with lyricist Bernie Taupin, 1967; solo performer, 1967; recording artist, 1969; concert performer, 1970. Appeared in film Tommy, 1975; subject of television documentary, Say Goodbye, Norma Jean, 1974.

Awards: Named to Playboy Jazz and Pop Hall of Fame, 1975; winner (with Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight, and Stevie Wonder; under name Dionne & Friends) of Grammy Award for best pop performance by a duo or group with a vocal, 1986, for Thats What Friends Are For.

Addresses: Office c/o John Reid Enterprises, 51 Holland St., 2nd Floor, London W8 7JB, England.

and received a call from a record company executive. The executive had matched Johns melodies with lyrics by an equally unknown writer, Bernie Taupin. John and Taupin were not offered a contract, but they went into partnership anyway. Eventually they were hired by Dick James, a music publisher who helped the Beatles early in their career. For some months John and Taupin labored unsuccessfully to churn out commercial jingles and songs for Englebert Humperdinck and Lulu. They tired of this quickly and, in 1969, they began to produce their own songswith John doing vocals and pianoin a London basement. Their first album, Empty Sky, was a modest success in England, and their second, Elton John, crossed the ocean and caught on in the American market. The catalyst in Johns success was ultimately the singer himself. Having finally shed his excess weight, he also lost his reluctance to give live performances. His 1970 American debut at the Troubador Club in Los Angeles found him clad in outrageous clothing and clowning joyously onstagein effect making up for the dull childhood he had endured. Quickly he was hailed as the harbinger of a new era in rocka performer whose high-talented, low-keyed protest-free approach to life and sound [would] appeal equally to the flower child in the young and the gardener of verses in the old, to quote Time contributor William Bender.

Indeed, as the 1970s progressed, Elton John seemed to epitomize the me generation that replaced flower children in the so-called youth market. His excesses were legionfleets of luxury cars, diamond-studded glasses, shopping sprees on several continents, lavish homes in London and Los Angeles, brief love affairs with men and women. His antics may have amused some, but his music appealed to nearly all, just as Bender predicted. From 1973 until 1977 he dominated the pop charts with a string of hits most notable for their varietyand for the fact that few people could sing Johns songs the way he could. His work included old-style rockers like Crocodile Rock, and Saturday Nights Alright for Fightin, and The Bitch Is Back, fantasy outings like Rocket Man, and Bennie and the Jets, message music such as the gospel Border Song and the whistful Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, and love ballads like Your Song and Tiny Dancer. The John-Taupin partnership was responsible for more than a dozen gold records before it dissolved in 1977. John set a punishing pace for himself in the early 1970she toured America ten times between 1970 and 1976and finally the toll began to tell. In 1978 he announced his retirement, claiming there was no burning spark left.

If Johns retirement decision was short-lived (he returned to concert touring in 1979), some fundamental changes in his lifestyle were not. The 1980s have seen a less flamboyant Elton John, one who has eschewed the glittering costumes and onstage acrobatics. His best known 1980s hits, with the exception of the defiant Im Still Standing, reflect a greater interest in the blues and ballad forms and a more mellow vocal sound. According to Jim Gladstone in the Philadelphia Inquirer, however, Johns live performing talents remain in bloom after 20 years. In People magazine, John suggested that diversity is the key to a long career in entertainment. He said: I can see myself singing at 50 and 60 and hope I will always have something to contribute.

Selected discography

Empty Sky, MCA, 1969.

Elton John, MCA, 1970.

Tumbleweed Connection, Uni, 1970.

17-11-70, MCA, 1971.

Friends, Paramount, 1971.

Madman Across the Water, MCA, 1971.

Honky Chateau, MCA, 1972.

Dont Shoot Me, Im Only the Piano Player, MCA, 1973.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, MCA, 1973.

Caribou, MCA, 1974.

Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, MCA, 1974.

Greatest Hits, MCA, 1974.

Rock of the Westies, MCA, 1975.

Here and There, MCA, 1976.

Blue Moves, MCA, 1976.

Greatest Hits 2, MCA, 1977.

Single Man, MCA, 1978.

Victim of Love, MCA, 1979.

Live Collection, Pickwick, 1979.

21 at 33, MCS, 1980.

The Fox, Geffen, 1981.

Jump Up!, Geffen, 1982.

Too Low for Zero, Geffen, 1983.

Breaking Hearts, Geffen, 1984.

Your Songs, MCA, 1986.

Live in Australia with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, MCA, 1987.

Leather Jackets, Geffen, 1987.

Greatest Hits 3, Geffen, 1987.

Ice on Fire, Geffen, 1988.

Reg Strikes Back, MCA, 1988.

Sleeping with the Past, MCA, 1989.

Sources

Books

Simon, George T., The Best of the Music Makers, Doubleday, 1979.

Periodicals

Circus, December, 1970.

Look, My 27, 1971.

New York Times, May 12, 1974.

People, August 26, 1974; January 16, 1978.

Philadelphia Inquirer, October 5, 1988.

Rolling Stone, November 21, 1974.

Time, December 14, 1970; July 7, 1975.

Anne Janette Johnson

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