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The Rocket Man of Music
One could call Elton John the Rocket Man of music, not just because of his hit “Rocket Man” but because of his incredible popularity and rise to stardom. He is a British singer, pianist and composer and is considered to be one of the most popular musicians of the 20th century. He was born as Reginald Kenneth Dwight on March 25, 1947. He has sold over 250 million records, found success on Broadway and composed the music score for “Billy Elliot” the Tony award hit in 2008. His full name is Elton Hercules John and after being knighted by the Queen in 1998 could add Sir to his name. So I present the music of Sir Elton Hercules John. Elton John’s music is a special blend of pop and rock styles. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.
First Musical Steps
Elton John dropped out of school at 17 and started playing with a group called Bluesology. It was at this time that he combined his stage name from the names of two members of this group. He answered an ad for a songwriter for Liberty Records in 1967 and after getting the job this was the time that he teamed up with lyricist Bernie Taupin. They began writing songs for other artists and Elton John got his first big break with his 1969 album Empty Sky, featuring songs by John and Taupin. The album never really caught on but it included the song “Skyline Pigeon” which John himself preferred and on which he played the harpsichord.
His first hit came out in 1970 titled “Your Song”. In the 1970s he began performing live in lots of elaborate costumes and wearing decorative glasses. He wanted people to notice him. In 1976 he topped the charts in a duet with Kiki Dee “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”. At this time he took a break from music and started focusing on his soccer team in England. Before officially stating his sexuality he at first announced that he was bisexual which didn’t seem to help with his career. Finally there was another breakthrough with the release of his 1979 album Single Man.
Hits and Musical Albums
John’s first number one album in the U.S. was Honky Chateau released in 1972 and spent five weeks on the Billboard charts. The album included such hits as “Honky Cat” and “Rocket Man”.
In 1973 he came out with his next album titled Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player. With a title like that he was lucky that he was a really good piano player and singer. This album included the ever popular songs “Daniel” and “Crocodile Rock”.
The album which put John on the top of the charts in both the U.K. and the U.S. and shot him straight to stardom was Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. It included the songs “Candle in the Wind” (written about Marilyn Monroe), “Bennie and the Jets” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”.
Forming His Own Record Label
In 1974 he formed his own record label The Rocket Record Company. That same year John collaborated with John Lennon, who appeared on Elton John’s single cover of The Beatles “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”. Elton John was featured on Lennon’s song “Whatever Gets You Through the Night” on Lennon’s album Walls and Bridges. Later on that year at Lennon’s last major live performance, he and Elton John performed both of these songs and The Beatles’ classic “I Saw Her Standing There” at Madison Square Garden in New York.
John’s third album was “Caribou” released in 1974. This album received a Grammy Award nomination. Two popular songs from this album were “The Bitch is Back” and “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”.
Pete Townshend of The Who asked John to play a character named “Local Lad” in the rock opera “Tommy” and to perform the song “Pinball Wizard”. John’s version was used for the movie released in 1975 and the song was made into a single and rose up on the pop charts.
Number One Albums
In 1975 John came out with the autobiographical album Captain Fantastic and the Dirt Brown Cowboy. This album rose to number one on the charts and stayed there for a whole seven weeks. This album included one of my all time favorite hits by John “Someone Saved My Life Tonight”.
Another number one album followed the rock orientated Rock of the Westies. This album included songs like “Island Girl”. At this time John’s wardrobe included ostrich feathers, spectacles like having his name spelled out in lights and he would dress up as the Statue of Liberty, Donald Duck or Mozart at his concerts. In 1975 he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Fame is the Name of the Game
The live album Here and There in May 1976 was followed by the album Blue Moves in October. Blues Moves included the hit single “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word”.
John has six albums that made Rolling Stone’s list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
John announced that he was retiring from performing in November 1977 and Taupin started collaborating with others. At this time John was producing only one album per year and released A Single Man in 1978 with a new lyricist Gary Osborne. Two singles from this album made it on the charts in the U.K. – “Part-Time Love” and “Song for Guy”.
In 1979 accompanied by Ray Cooper, John became one of the first Western artists to tour the Soviet Union as well as the first to tour Israel. Soon John reached the Top Ten in the U.S. with “Mama Can’t Buy You Love”.
A disco orientated album was released in 1977 Victim of Love. The album was not successful and John and Taupin reunited and came out with the album Too Low For Zero” in 1983. The album included the songs “I’m Still Standing” and “That’s Why They Call It the Blues”. The album earned Platinum certification by RIAA.
The album 21 at 33 included one of John’s biggest hits “Little Jeannie”. John recorded The Fox in 1981. On September 13, 1980 John and The Elton John Band performed a free concert to about 400,000 fans on The Great Lawn in Central Park, New York. This resulted in his 1982 hit “Empty Garden (Hey, Hey Johnny)” which is on his album Jump Up! This album also included his wonderful song “Blue Eyes”.
Performing at Live Aid
In 1985 John joined the many other performers at the Live Aid concert at Wembley Stadium in London, England. He performed “Bennie and the Jets”, “Rocket Man” and a duet with Kiki Dee “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”.
In 1985 he released the album Breaking Hearts which featured his hit song “Sad Songs (Say So Much)”. That year he also recorded with Millie Jackson and in 1986 he played the piano on two tracks on the album Rock the Nations released by heavy metal band Saxon.
Throughout the 1980s John kept coming out with hits such as “Nikita”, a live orchestral version of “Candle in the Wind” and “I Don’t Wanna Go On with You Like That”. He collaborated with Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight and Stevie Wonder on “That’s What Friends Are For” which reached number one on the charts in the U.S. This song raised funds for AIDS research. Even though John’s albums continued to sell only his album Reg Strikes Back in 1988 got on the U.S. charts.
Number One Hits and Awards
He came out with his first solo U.K. number one hit single “Sacrifice” in 1990. The following year John won the Grammy for Best Instrumental for “Basque”. In 1991 he was awarded for Best British Male at the Brit Awards.
John released his eighth U.S. album in 1992 The One. It featured the hit song “The One”. That year he also released “Runaway Train” a duet with Eric Clapton. John and Taupin signed on with Warner/Chappell Music.
In April 1992 John performed at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert at Wembley Stadium and performed “The Show Must Go On” with the remaining members of Queen and “Bohemian Rhapsody” with Axl Rose of Guns N’ Roses and Queen. He performed his hit “The One” at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards and closed the ceremony performing “November Rain” with Guns N’ Roses.
The following year John released Duets, a collaboration with 15 artists among them Tammy Wynette and RuPaul. A new collaboration with Kiki Dee “True Love” reached the Top 10 on the U.K. charts.
The Lion King
John wrote the songs for the 1994 Disney animated film “The Lion King” with Tim Rice. At the 67th Academy Awards John won for Best Song with “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”. This song also won him the Best Male Pop Vocal Performance at the 37th Grammy Awards. The other song from the film that became a hit for John was “Circle of Life”. Once The Lion King soundtrack album was released it stayed on top of the Bilboard 200 chart for nine weeks. The RIAA certified The Lion King “Diamond” for selling 15 million copies.
Outstanding Contribution to Music
John came out with Made in England in 1995 featuring the single “Believe”. Performing this song at the 1995 Brit Awards he received the award Outstanding Contribution to Music. His duet with Luciano Pavarotti “Live Like Horses” rose to number nine in the U.K. in December 1996 and that same year the compilation album Love Songs was released.
The Death of a Princess
When Princess Diana died John had Taupin revise the lyrics of his 1973 song “Candle in the Wind”. On September 6, 1997 he performed the song at the funeral for Princess Diana at Westminster Abbey. The song went on to sell more than 33 million copies worldwide. The song proceeds of about 55 million sterling pounds were donated to Diana’s charities through the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund. John won for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance at the 40th Grammy Awards.
The Road to El Dorado
John collaborated with Tim Rice again on the animated film for Dreamworks “The Road to El Dorado”. He released his 27th album Songs of the West Coast in 2001. At this point John no longer wanted to appear in his own music videos so “This Train Don’t Stop Here Anymore” featured Justin Timberlake portraying him and “I Want Love” had Robert Downey Jr. lip-syncing the song. Three more albums were released Peachtree Road in 2004, The Captain & The Kid in 2006 and The Diving Board in 2013.
One month after the September 11 attacks John appeared at The Concert for New York City performing “I Want Love” and singing a duet with Billy Joel “Your Song”. He came out with his fifth U.K. number one single in 2003 “Are You Ready for Love”. He composed the music for a West End Theater production of Billy Elliot the Musical in 2005 with playwright Lee Hall. The production received rave reviews and was still running strong as of 2014.
All through the 2000s John continues to perform showing each and every time that he is still one dynamic performer. His 33rd studio album Wonderful Crazy Night is set for release in February 2016.
© 2015 Gypsy Rose Lee