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Elton John was born on 25 March 1947 as Reginald Kenneth Dwight. He was the youngest child of Stanley and Sheila Eileen and raised in Pinner, Middlesex. Elton completed Pinner Wood Junior School, Reddiford School and Pinner County Grammar School.
Dwight showed an interest in music at the age of three by playing the piano by ear and at the age of seven took formal lessons and at eleven, awarded a junior scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music. With an absentee father, his mother and maternal grandmother raised John and when his parents divorced in 1962, his mother remarried a local painter who was a more caring and supportive stepfather than his own father had ever been.
In 1962 supported by his mother, grandmother and stepfather, Dwight became the weekend pianist at the Northwood Hills Hotel, a local pub. After a brief period with a group called the “Corvettes,” he formed the band “Bluesology” with friends. By day, he worked for a music publishing company, by night performed solo at a London Hotel Bar, and worked with Bluesology. They enjoyed modest success, backing touring US Soul and R&B musicians such as the Isley Brothers, Major Lance and Billy Stewart. Their success grew, as the band became Long John Baldry’s supporting band at the Marquee Club, where they played sixteen times.
Answering an advertisement in the “New Musical Express,” he met with then A&R Manager for Liberty Records Ray Williams who have him a stack of lyrics by Bernie Taupin. John wrote the music and the song “Scarecrow” was recorded, and founded a partnership that endures to this day. When they first met, Dwight had found his stage name, “Elton” in homage to Bluesology saxophonist Elton Dean and Long “John” Baldry thus creating Elton John.
In 1968, he became a songwriter for DJM Records and gave music to lyrics written by many writers including Taupin that included artists like Roger Cook and Lulu. .In 1968, Ex guitarist of Bluesology Caleb Quaye helped the pair produce their first more complex single, “I’ve Been Loving You,” and John went on to record another single “Lady Samantha and then the album “Empty Sky.” Their follow up album “Elton John” was released in April of 1970 and established the formula of gospel-chorded rockers and poignant ballads. The single, “Border Song” peaked at 92 on the US Top 100, and the second single, “Your Song” peaked at number 8, making it in to John’s first hit single. The album also became a hit, reaching number four on the Billboard 200 album chart and lead to an equally successful first concert at The Troubadour in Los Angeles in August the same year.
John released the concept album “Tumbleweed Connections” in October 1970 and it reached the Top 10 of the Billboard 200, followed by “Madman across the Water” in 1971 with the hits “Levon.” The band grew and in 1972, they released “Honky Chateau” and became John’s first American No. 1 Album where it reigned for five weeks. He followed up with “Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player” in 1973 which included the hits “Crocodile Rock" (a number one hit) and "Daniel.”
“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” rocketed to number one on both sides of the Atlantic and reigned for two months, temporarily making John a glam rock star with the hit “Bennie and the Jets” amongst other hits including “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” “Candle in the Wind,” and “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting."
In 1974, he launched his own distribution company, Rocket Records but opted to release his own work with MCA. That year saw a collaboration with John Lennon as John covered The Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and Lennon’s “One Day at a Time” in exchange for being featured on Lennon’s “Whatever Gets you thru the Night.”
The release of his autobiographical album, “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy” also marked the end of the Elton John Band. The album revealed the ambitious side of John as Taupin’s lyrics described their early struggles as London based songwriters and musicians. The single, “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” was a hit and captured an early turning point in John’s life. 1976 saw the release of his live album “Here and There” and then “Blue Moves” in May and October respectively. The later album contained the single “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word.” However, it was “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” a duet with Kiki Dee that topped both UK and US charts.
These years were the most commercially successful for John, with seven consecutive albums reaching number 1 in the charts, making history in the industry. The six Elton John albums on the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” by Rolling Stone Magazine in 2003 come from this period.
In 1977, John announced his retirement from performance and launched only one album, “A Single Man” and two singles that failed to chart in the Top 20 in the USA. The Single “Part-Time Love” made it to the UK Top 20 and “Song for Guy” reached number 5. He became the first rock star to tour the Soviet Union and Israel. His experimentation with a disco-influenced album and it was poorly received and John reunited with Taupin to release 21 at 33 the following year that boosted his career, aided by hit “Little Jeannie” that made in to number 3 in the US.
His 1981 album “The Fox” was released and his 1982 hit “Empty Garden” from his 1982 album “Jump Up!” won him a new recording contract with US label Geffen Records. A number of the original members of the Elton John Band reunited and they stormed the charts with the 1983 hit album “Too Low For Zero” that reached number 4 and continued to place hits in the US Top Ten throughout the 1980s. The charted with “Little Jeannie (#3 in 1980), “Sad Songs (#5 in 1984), Nikita (#7 in 1986) a live orchestra version of “Candle in the Wind” (#6 in 1987) and “I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That (#2 in 1988). However, John had vocal trouble while on tour in Australia in 1986 and had throat surgery that forever changed his singing voice from tenor to baritone.
It was only in 1990 that John finally achieved his own UK number one hit: “Sacrifice” from his 1989 album “Sleeping with the Past,” which reigned the charts for six weeks. The following year, “Basque” won the Grammy for Best Instrumental.
In 1994 he wrote songs for the animated movie “Lion King” which again becomes the third highest grossing animated feature in history, and the song “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” was an award winner at the 67th Academy Awards. The Disney Company, call him, the “Disney Legend.”
He was a close friend to Diana, Princess of Wales and after her death in a car accident in Paris; he contacted long time friend and songwriter Bernie Taupin and asked him to revise the lyrics of “Candle in the Wind.” Taupin did so, honoring Diana with “Candle in the Wind, 1997” performed by John at her funeral, held in Westminster Abbey. The single raised 55 million pounds for the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund and at the 40th Grammy Awards won “Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.” He has vowed never to perform the song again, unless asked by Crown Prince William or Price Harry.
His newest album, “The Union” was released on October 19, 2010 and the future looks bright for the sixty plus performer.