Everybody knows I'm desperately in love with Miss Piggy 1
I remember Elton John from The Muppet Show, and my Mom's old eight track tapes. With his crazy sunglasses and famous excess he is an icon I have grown up with. I have always enjoyed his music, and own more of his albums than I care to count. He brings an eccentric appeal to his live performances, and the two shows I have been to remain my best concert experiences ever. Whether seeking a ballad or just something fun, Elton is always a safe bet. His songs have been rehashed, covered, and sampled but never with the same overindulgent flair.
Reginald Kenneth Dwight, known to the world as Elton John, was born on March 25,1947 in Pinner, Middlesex, England. At the age of four his parents, Sheila and Kenneth Dwight, started taking young Reginald to piano lessons. This launched a talent that led him to be considered by many the most successful rock pianists in the world. He is now one of the richest men in Britain and one of the world's best known pop stars.
Elton was a gifted musician from an early age, and won a scholarship to
the Royal Academy of Music when he was eleven, and attended the Academy until he was fifteen.
His love of performing and of rock n roll were also apparent early on, at age thirteen he performed at his parents' dinner parties and wore glasses so he could look like his idol, Buddy Holly. The glasses which would one day become an important part of his look at that time ruined his perfect vision. By wearing the prescription glasses, he caused himself to become nearsighted.2
In 1960, Elton, along with a few friends, formed a band called the Corvettes, which eventually
evolved into Bluesology. As Bluesology they performed backing vocals for such singers as Patti LaBelle and Doris Troy. Elton played keyboard and organ with the band as well as performing some vocals. In 1967 Elton quit Bluesology shortly after meeting lyricist Bernie Taupin,whom he actually met afterthey had both been turned down for a job at Liberty Records. It was around this time was that Reg Dwight renamed himself Elton Hercules John. He adopted the name after his friend Elton Dean and Long John Baldry.
Elton and Bernie began collaborating almost immediately and were signed to a recording contract in 1968. Their first album, Empty Sky came out in 1970, but their first hit
(Your Song) would not come until the release of their second album Elton John. Elton made his American concert debut at the Troubadour in West Hollywood, on August 25, 1970, and by 1975 he had a place on the Hollywood Star on the Walk Of Fame, near the front of Mann's Chinese Theater.
Despite his immense success, Elton John had entered an emotionally difficult phase in his life. While he remained one of pop's most newsworthy figures, he openly admitted his bisexuality and personal insecurities concerning his weight and baldness to Rolling Stone. This show of vulnerability seemed to only strengthen his popularity in the late 1970's. Elton became an icon of that decade by always wearing outrageous costumes and a different pair of glasses for each appearance.
By the early 1980's Elton's record sales were down significantly, and did not improve until the release of Too Low For Zero in 1983, which scaled the charts along with the single I'm Still Standing. During this time Elton also had some serious trouble with the press. The Sun newspaper made serious allegations against the singer, which prompted a libel suit. Elton eventually accepted a large settlement, the amount of which was never disclosed. The 80's were also marked by Elton's marriage to Renate Blauel (a German sound engineer) in 1984 and their divorce in 1988. By the end of the 80's Elton seemed more serious and his last album of the decade (Sleeping With the Past) conveyed that feeling.
By the end of 1990 it was clear Elton's struggles were not to end with the previous decade. In December 1990 he checked himself into a drug and alcohol rehab center in Chicago, where he battled cocaine and alcohol addictions. His troubles with the British press weren't over either, in 1992 the Sunday Mirror reported an alleged incident with regard to bulimia. Once again Elton filed a suit and won a substantial settlement. During the mid 1990's Elton once again went public with his private problems, confessing his addictions as well as openly admitting to being homosexual. He made said in an interview that "There is nothing wrong with going to bed with someone of your own sex. People should be very free with sex, they should draw the line at goats."3 Despite his personal problems Elton's career flourished in the 1990's.
In 1994 Elton was inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame by Axl Rose, and in In 1997 Elton sang Candle In The Wind 1997 at Princess Diana's funeral, a
song he and Bernie had rewritten for her. It was the b-side to the hit Something About The Way You Look Tonight and is now the all-time best selling single in history. The 1990's were also marked with several other achievements. One was the formation of the Elton John Aids Foundation in 1992. The foundation was created after his friend, Ryan White died of the disease. All the profits from Elton's singles are now donated to this foundation. As of 2002 this foundation has raised over 32 million dollars and distributed over 28 million of this4.The other was when in 1998 Elton was given the honorary title of Knight Bachelor making him "Sir Elton John, CBE" by the Queen of England. The award was for his contribution to music and to charitable services.
Throughout the years Elton John has kept the friendship and admiration of his friends and peers. He remains an outstanding songwriter and a fine pianist, and together with the Beatles and Rolling Stones is one of Britain's most successful artists. Along with his success in his native Britain, accordin to the Recording Industry Association of America he holds the title of second highest selling solo recording artist of all time in the the United States. Time and again he has successfully ridden out the storms caused by media intrusions into his private life, always coming out of it more popular than ever. Above all he is still able to maintain a sense of humor about himself in down-to-earth fashion, aware of all his eccentricities.
Here am I, a pudgy little man in outrageous gear, leaping at a piano!3
* For a great discography look to the node by Mitchevious
1John, Elton John In His Own Words, 46.
2Heatley, Elton John: The Life and Music of a Legendary Performer, 21.
3John, Elton John In His Own Words, 3.
Heatley, Michael, Elton John: The Life and Music of a Legendary Performer.London:Clb Pub, 1998.
John, Elton. Elton John In His Own Words. New York:Omnibus Press, 1997.