Childhood & Early Life
Elton John was born as Reginald Kenneth Dwight on March 25, 1947, in Pinner, Middlesex, England, to Stanley Dwight and Sheila Eileen.
He gained his education from Pinner Wood Junior School, Reddiford School and Pinner County Grammar School. However, he left studies before A-Level examinations to pursue a career in music.
He started playing piano at an early age, and at the age of 11, he won a junior scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music. Such were his abilities that he started composing music at an early age. Elton studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London for five years.
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Elton John’s first job was as a weekend pianist at a pub. Thereafter, he took up several roles, forming a band with friends, working in a music publishing house, performing solo at hotels. In 1962, he formed the band Bluesology.
In 1967, he collaborated with lyricist Bernie Taupin. He wrote musical compositions for the latter’s lyrics. This led to the beginning of the historic partnership that still survives today. ‘Scarecrow’ was the first song recorded by the two. Meanwhile, Dwight changed his name to Elton John after Bluesology musicians.
In 1968, Elton John and Taupin became successful staff songwriters for DJM Records. They were writing and composing song for other singers and musicians. Starting off with easy lyrics and catchy music, they switched to more complex forms.
In 1969, Elton John received his first break as a singer and came up with his debut album ‘Empty Sky’. He soon backed it with a follow-up album, ‘Elton John’ that was released in April 1970. The album soon became his first hit album, reaching number four on the US Billboard 200 and number five on the UK Albums Chart.
The tremendous success of Elton John’s second album gave him impetus to continue making music. Consequently, in 1972, he released ‘Honky Château’, which went on to become his first US number one album. This was just the beginning as what followed was a streak of seven consecutive US number one albums.
His first song to reach the US Billboard Hot 100 number one position was ‘Crocodile Rock’ from the pop album ‘Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player’. His 1973 album ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ gained a cult status as it was an instant hit both critically and popularly. The album established his reputation as a glam rock star.
Having gained a star status, he formed his own label, The Rocket Record Company. However, instead of releasing his own records on Rocket, he signed an offer with MCA.
In 1974, MCA released his Greatest Hits album, a UK and US number one, which was certified Diamond by the RIAA. This was followed by 1974 ‘Caribou’ and the 1975 autobiographical album ‘Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy’. It debuted at number one in the US, becoming the first album ever to do so. Its success was soon repeated by the rock-oriented album, ‘Rock of the Westies’.
Though early 1970s was the most successful period for John, both commercially and critically, given his seven consecutive albums reached number one spot in the US, John became equally famous for his live shows and his dressing sense. He was known for wearing pompous, over-the-top costumes and glasses for his elaborate concerts.
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In 1976, John touched the top yet again with the duet single ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ with Kiki Dee. He took a hiatus from the music industry only to return in 1978 with the album ‘A Single Man’. Following year, he became the one of the first Western artists to tour in Soviet Union and Israel.
The decade of 1980s was a decent period in John’s career. Though he had lost his Midas touch in music, thanks to his drinking and drug problems, all was not gone. He produced several smash hits during this time including ‘Little Jeannie’ ‘Empty Garden (Hey Hey Thanks)’, ‘I’m Still Standing’, ‘I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues’ and ‘That’s What Friends Are For’ which reached No 1 spot in US. He performed several live shows during this time.
He opened the decade of 1990 in style with his first single ‘Sacrifice’ hitting the number one spot in UK charts. It became his first solo UK hit single. Following a series of hit singles and albums, he tried his hand at other fields.
Together with Tim Rice, he wrote the songs for the 1994 Disney animated film ‘The Lion King’. The score was immensely lauded and even went on to win him his first Academy Award for ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight’.
Elton John performed ‘Candle in the Wind 1997’ at the funeral of Princess Diana. It became the fastest and biggest-selling single of all time, eventually selling over 33 million copies worldwide. It was the best-selling single in UK Chart history, the best-selling single in Billboard history and the only single ever certified Diamond in the United States.
In 2003, Elton John scored his fifth UK number one single with ‘Are You Ready for Love’. Returning to musical theatre, he composed music for a West End production of Billy Elliot the Musical in 2005 with playwright Lee Hall. Opening to strong reviews, the show became eleventh longest-running musical in West End history. It has won 80 international awards and has been viewed by over 5.25 million people in London and nearly 11 million people worldwide.
The decade of 2010s has seen Elton John perform for a variety of shows. He has his hands full with concert shows, live performances, remix albums, performances at award ceremonies and so on.
In 2016, he came up with his 32nd studio album ‘Wonderful Crazy’ which was also his last one.
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Awards & Achievements
Elton John received the 1995 Academy Award for Best Original Song for ‘Can You Feel The Love Tonight’.
Of the multiple nominations at the Grammy Awards, John won it five times in various categories. He also won Tony Award in 2000 for Best Original Music Score for ‘Aida’. He has also received five Brit Awards. In 2013, John received the first Brits Icon award.
He was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Elton John was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1995. Later in 1998, he was made Knight Bachelor by Queen Elizabeth II
He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Personal Life & Legacy
Elton John married Renate Blauel in February 1984. The two parted ways four years later.
In 1988, he came out as gay and in 1993, he begain a relationship with David Furnish.
In 2005, when the Civil Partnership Act came into force, Elton John and David Furnish were amongst the first couples in the UK to form a civil partnership.
In 2014, when gay marriage became legal, John and Furnish got married on December 21, 2014. They have two children through surrogacy, Zachary Furnish-John and Elijah Joseph Daniel Furnish-John.
In 1992, John founded the Elton John AIDS Foundation as a charity to fund programmes for HIV/AIDS prevention. The aim of the foundation is to eliminate prejudice and discrimination against HIV/AIDS-affected individuals, and providing services to people living with or at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.