Elton John

  • British singer, pianist and composer, born Reginald Dwight, in 1947, from London England.
  • He started playing piano at the age of 3, and started lessons at 7. He showed an ability to write melodies, and he was awarded a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music when he was 11. In 1962, he began performing solo piano at a pub on weekends – he was known as “Reggie.” That same year, he formed a band with friends, called Bluesology, and he split time in his evenings between performing solo and with the band. By 1965, Bluesology was backing American blues and R&B artists on tours, and in 1966, they became the backing band for musician Long John Baldry.
  • In 1967, a British music magazine posted an advertisement from a record company that was looking for talent. Dwight answered the advertisement, as did a lyricist named Bernie Taupin. When Dwight met a manager from the record company, the manager gave Dwight an unopened envelop of lyrics from Taupin. Dwight put music to the lyrics, and sent it to Taupin. They met, and recorded their first collaboration, a song called Scarecrow. It was their first of 300 songs that they have co-written.
  • Later that year, Dwight adopted a stage name – Elton John. It was derived from 2 of the members of Bluesology – saxophonist Elton Dean, and vocalist Long John Baldry. He legally changed his name to Elton Hercules John in 1972.
  • John and Taupin joined a record company in 1968 as staff songwriters. They wrote easy-listening songs for other artists – typically, Taupin would write lyrics in an hour, and John would write melodies in half an hour. During this time, John also was a session musician for other artists.
  • Recognizing his talent, the record company agreed that John should record and release music himself. In 1968 and 1969, 3 non-album singles were released – I’ve Been Loving You, Lady Samantha and It’s Me That You Need. None of these singles charted. Also in 1969, his debut album, Empty Sky, was released in the UK (it was not released in the U.S. until 1975). It was a mixture of R&B, soft rock and psychedelic rock. Like the singles, it did not chart.
  • His breakthrough came with his second album, the self titled Elton John, in 1970. The album reached #4 on the Billboard 200 album chart, and the single Your Song was his first hit, peaking at #8 on the Hot 100 chart. Later that year, he released Tumbleweed Connection, his first of 10 consecutive platinum certified albums. In 1971, Madman Across the Water was released, and the following year, Honky Château was released – his first of 6 consecutive #1 albums. Classic songs from these albums include Levon, Tiny Dancer and Rocket Man. 
  • John’s next 4 albums, from 1973 to 1975, were his biggest sellers. Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player included his first #1 song, Crocodile Rock, and Daniel peaked at #2. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was his best selling album ever, certified 8x platinum in the U.S., containing his second #1, Bennie and the Jets (see my November 8, 2017 blog on Best Double Albums for more information). Caribou had 2 more top 5 songs, Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me and The Bitch Is Back. And, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy included the hit Someone Saved My Life Tonight.
  • Four more albums were released in the 70s, with #1 singles Island Girl and Don’t Go Breaking My Heart (a duet with Kiki Dee), Philadelphia Freedom and Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, and 7 additional top 40 songs.
  • John did not rest in the 80s. Nine more studio albums were released, with Too Low For Zero, Breaking Hearts, and Sleeping With The Past achieving platinum sales status. The hits were a little less frequent, though he scored top 10 singles with Little Jeannie, I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues, Sad Songs (Say So Much), Nikita, and I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That. 
  • More successes occurred in the 90s. There were only 3 studio albums – all had platinum sales. He began to write music for theater productions, and 2 in this decade were huge hits – The Lion King in 1994, and Aida in 1998 (see my August 13, 2017 blog on Elton John on Broadway for more information). Additionally, following the death of Princess Diana, his performed his re-write of Candle In The Wind 1997 at the funeral of Diana. The song then was released as a single, and it has sold over 33 million copies worldwide – the best selling single in Billboard history. Proceeds were donated to various charities of Princess Diana.
  • Since the turn of the century, John has been a bit less prolific, but he is as popular as ever – maybe even more so, as his career now covers baby boomers, generation X-ers, and millenials. There have been 5 more solo studio albums, plus 2 collaborative albums (one with Leon Russell, one with Pnau). Another musical theater show scored by John was wildly successful – Billy Elliot. He has continued to perform concerts regularly – in October 2011, he performed his 3,000th concert. In January 2018, as John turned 70 years old, he announced that he will retire from touring – but not until after his farewell tour, starting in September 2018 and lasting 3 years.
  • The awards and achievements of Elton John are staggering. He won 5 Grammy awards, plus he was awarded the Grammy Legend Award. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1998 for his charitable works. He was a Kennedy Center Honors recipient in 2004. He won an Oscar for Best Original Song for Can You Feel The Love Tonight from the film The Lion King (2 other songs from the film also were nominated). He won a Tony award for Best Original Score for Aida. He is considered the 5th best selling musical artist of all time, with sales of over 300 million records worldwide. For 31 consecutive years, he had at least 1 song in the Billboard Hot 100. Rolling Stone ranks him at #49 on their Greatest Artists of All Time list, with 3 albums on their GOAT album list, and 4 songs – Your Song, Tiny Dancer, Candle In The Wind and Rocket Man on their GOAT song list.
  • My biggest struggle on this post – what decade to slot him in? He easily could be put into the 70s, 80s, 90s or 00s as his most significant decade. I picked the 80s. I have many favorites – but for your link, I’ll give you a performance of Rocket Man from 2013. Enjoy.

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