Elton John biography
Elton John is a British singer, pianist and composer whose unique blend of pop and rock styles turned him into one of the biggest music icons of the 20th century. He excelled in music from a young age, attending the prestigious Academy of Music on a scholarship at just eleven years old. In 1970 he released his first self-titled American album, making him a huge international star. Some of his most famous hits include "Crocodile Rock," "Philadelphia Freedom," and "Candle in the Wind." He also found success on Broadway, composing the score for Billy Elliot (2008), which went on to win ten Tony Awards. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. He was knighted in 1998.
One of pop music's most enduring stars, Elton John first came to fame in the 1970s. He has managed to produce hit after hit for more than four decades. John has also developed quite a career as a songwriter and composer for films and for the stage.
Born Reginald Kenneth Dwight, John discovered his passion for music at an early age. He taught himself how to play piano when he was only four years old. John soon proved to be a great talent, winning a scholarship to a youth program at the Royal Academy of Music in London. He attended classes there on the weekends.
John had a difficult relationship with his father, a member of the Royal Air Force. His parents divorced when he was a teenager, and he and his father clashed over his future. John, captivated by the sounds of early rock and roll, wanted to pursue a career in pop music. And much to his father's dismay, John dropped out of school at 17 to follow his dream. He started playing with a group called Bluesology, and he cobbled together his stage moniker from the names of two members of the group.
In 1967, John answered an ad for a songwriter for Liberty Records. He got the job and soon teamed up with lyricist Bernie Taupin. The duo switched to the DJM label the following year, writing songs for other artists. John got his first break as a singer with his 1969 album Empty Sky, featuring songs by John and Taupin. While that recording failed to catch on, his 1970 self-titled effort featured John's first hit "Your Song." More hits soon followed, including such number-one smashes as "Crocodile Rock," "Bennie and the Jets" and "Island Girl." John enjoyed a series of top-selling albums during this time, including Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973) and Rock of the Westies (1975).
As one of the top acts of the 1970s, Elton John became equally famous for his live shows. He dressed in fabulous, over-the-top costumes and glasses for his elaborate concerts. In an interview with W, John explained that "I wasn't a sex symbol like Bowie, Marc Bolan or Freddie Mercury, so I dressed more on the humorous side, because if I was going to be stuck at the piano for two hours, I was going to make people look at me."
In 1976, John hit the top of charts again with "Don't Go Breaking My Heart," his duet with Kiki Dee.
He soon decided to take a break from music, focusing his energies on his soccer team in England. Around this time, John also publicly announced that he was bisexual. (He later came out as a gay man.) At the time, John was ridiculed and taunted for his sexuality. The controversy died down, and he made a triumphant return to music in 1979 with the album A Single Man.
While not producing smash hits in 1980s, John still did well on the charts. Some of the most memorable songs from this period, include the ballads "Little Jeannie" and "Empty Garden (Hey, Hey Johnny)." "Empty Garden (Hey, Hey Johnny)" was written as a tribute to his friend John Lennon of the Beatles, who had been killed in 1980.
In 1990, after years of battling substance abuse issues, John went into rehabilitation. The newly sober musical star, delighted at his second chance at life, soon founded his own charitable organization to help in the fight against AIDS. Established in 1992 in the United States, the Elton John AIDS Foundation has more than $225 million to support HIV/AIDS programs around the world.
Branching out in different directions, John teamed up with lyricist Tim Rice for several projects. They worked together on the soundtrack for the 1994 animated hit The Lion King, and one of the movie's songs, "Can You Feel The Love Tonight," brought John his first Academy Award win for Best Original Song. The pair later netted a Tony Award for Best Original Score in 2000 for their musical Aida.
John received a number of special honors around this time. In 1994, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Queen Elizabeth II made John a Commander of the Order of the British Empire the following year. (The queen knighted him several years later, making him officially "Sir Elton John.")
While he enjoyed all of the recognition and praise, he soon found himself rocked by grief. During the summer of 1997, John lost two good friends—fashion designer Gianni Versace and Princess Diana. He reworked one of his classic songs, "Candle in the Wind," as a tribute to Princess Diana, with the song's proceeds going to a charitable trust established in her honor. "Candle in the Wind 1997" proved to be a tremendous success, selling more than 30 million copies that year.
John has continued to record new music. In 2006, he released The Captain & the Kid, a sequel to his earlier autobiographical effort Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (1975). He also teamed up with Leon Russell for 2010's The Union, which led to a joint tour. According to Rolling Stone magazine, John has another album in the works, The Diving Board, produced by T Bone Burnett.
Also in demand as a songwriter, John has been instrumental in bringing Billy Elliott the Musical to the stage. The show, adapted from the 2000 film, opened on Broadway in 2008, where it quickly became a critical and commercial success. John also worked on the 2011 animated film Gnomeo & Juliet, serving as a producer and a composer.
While he toned down his stage persona years ago, John is a very popular live act. He plays numerous concert dates each year as a solo act and with other performers.
John married his longtime partner David Furnish in a civil ceremony in 2005. With the help of a surrogate, the couple welcomed their son, Zachary Furnish-John, in December 2010. John was previously married to Renate Blauel from 1984 to 1988.
In addition to his own foundation, John supports a number of different charities and arts organizations, including the Globe Theatre and the Royal Academy of Music.
While performing his show "The Million Dollar Piano" at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada in May 2012, John became ill with serious respiratory infection, and was hospitalized in Los Angeles. Following his doctor's recommendation, John canceled the show's last four concerts for 2012. He is scheduled to perform at Caesars Palace through 2014.