Captain Fantastic, raised and regimented Hardly a hero Just someone his mother might know. — "Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy"
Born Reginald Kenneth Dwight on March 25, 1947 in Pinner, England, classically-trained Elton John began his career in various blues bands and as a session musician, before answering a newspaper ad by Liberty Records for aspiring songwriters. He was given his first set of lyrics by Bernie Taupin, a struggling lyricist, to set them to music. Taupin liked what he heard, and the two formed a platonic and professional bond. Changing his name by deed poll to "Elton Hercules John" in 1970 (Elton for saxophonist Elton Dean, John for a singer Reg's old band Bluesology backed up, Long John Baldry, and Hercules, well from a racehorse in BritCom "Steptoe And Son"), Elton with Bernie's lyrics in tow) would gain a reputation as a singer-songwriter-pianist par excellence. By 1972, he had begun to wear increasingly flamboyant costumes, clothes and eyeglasses, which became a trademark for him until the mid-1980s. He became an unexpected superstar, with a string of highly successful albums such as Tumbleweed Connection, Madman Across the Water, Honky Chateau, Don't Shoot Me I'm Only The Piano Player, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (a double), and Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. His success tapered by the late-1970s, especially after outing himself in 1976. In the meantime, he appeared in the film Born To Boogie as himself, and in Tommy singing "Pinball Wizard".He has had numerous comebacks in The Eighties and The Nineties, and succcessfully rehabilitated himself from drugs, alcohol and bulimia in 1991. He later helped score The Lion King with Tim Rice in 1994 (winning an Oscar), and co-authored several Broadway musicals, including The Lion King, Lestat, Aida, and Billy Elliot. He recieved a star on the Hollywood Hall of Fame in 1975, inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, and was knighted in 1998. A theatrical revue of his songs, featuring Sir Elton in concert amid elaborate staging, films and props, titled "The Red Piano'', opened in Las Vegas in 2004 and closed in 2009.He has performed at Live Aid, Live 8, the Freddie Mercury Concert For Life and the Concert For Diana. He has also performed at the funeral for Princess Diana in 1997, singing a revised rendition of his 1973 hit "Candle In The Wind". "Candle In The Wind 1997", produced by Beatles producer Sir George Martin, became the most successful single of all time at 37 million copies, all royalties donated to the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund.Elton is chairman of Watford Football Club, and founding chairman of the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF), which he founded in 1992 after the death of Ryan White.He is well-known for his deft sense of humor, massive spending sprees and very public tantrums. He is also well-known for wearing odd costumes and crazy glasses, especially in The Seventies. His fortune is estimated at £175 Million, making him one of the most successful musicians of all time.Good friends with fellow piano man Billy Joel, with whom he has toured sporadically since the 1990s.
Empty Sky (1969)
Elton John (1970)
Tumbleweed Connection (1970)
Madman Across the Water (1971)
Honky Chateau (1972)
Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player (1973)
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973)
Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (1975)
Live in Australia (with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra) (1987)
One Night Only (2000)
This musician provides examples of:
Album Title Drop: Ice on Fire comes from a line in "Nikita". The Union comes from a line in "Gone to Shiloh".
The Alcoholic: "Elderberry Wine", "Social Disease", "Talking Old Soldiers" and "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting" depict this in song. Elton's main lyricist Bernie Taupin sobered up in Real Life in the late '70s, Elton himself by 1990.
Ambiguously Gay: He kept his sexuality well hidden until he outed himself in 1976.
"Well hidden" as in: when, mid-1970s, someone asked him, in an interview, if he was gay, his first reaction was "surprisingly, despite the clothes, no one asked that one before". His second reaction was "yes, I am".
Ballad of X: "Ballad of a Well-Known Gun", "The Ballad of Danny Bailey (1909-34)", "Ballad of the Boy in the Red Shoes", "The Ballad of Blind Tom"
Bi the Way: He tried to pass himself off as bisexual for a while, before admitting he was only into men.
Breakup Song: Plenty to choose from. "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me", "Cold As Christmas (In the Middle of the Year)", "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word", "High Flying Bird", "I Feel Like a Bullet (In the Gun of Robert Ford)", "I'm Still Standing" (a more vitriolic variety), "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" (ditto).
Bury Your Gays: "All the Girls Love Alice," the ballad of a teenage lesbian prostitute who tragically dies young.
Before being signed, Elton sang on soundalike low-budget recordings of famous songs of the day marketed to Woolworth's stores, similar to the "Drew's Famous" or "Countdown Singers" albums one finds at department stores nowadays. Occasionally, to capitalize on Elton's later success, you'll find albums like "Chartbusters Go Pop!" or "16 Legendary Covers" featuring these recordings. Witness his covers of "Spirit In The Sky" by Norman Greenbaum, or, erm, "Young, Gifted And Black" by Aretha Franklin!
Digital Piracy Is Evil: Surprisingly subverted when he said, "I do think it would be an incredible experiment to shut down the whole internet for five years and see what sort of art is produced over that span." He wasn't necessarily referring to online piracy, but more that he felt that the Internet was making people emotionally detached and over-reliant on technology, and that it allowed Dreadful Musicians to flood the market with poorly produced material.
Driven to Suicide: Averted in 1969, before Elton was popular. Elton was engaged to be married to a woman named Linda Woodrow, but began contemplating suicide. This led to an attempt discovered by Bernie Taupin, who was his flatmate at the time. This later inspired the song "Someone Saved My Life Tonight". (The "someone" in the lyrics, written by Taupin, actually refers to Long John Baldry, who talked Elton out of getting married.)
During Elton John Week in 1975, at the height of his fame, Elton took 60 Valium pills and dove into a hotel swimming pool in front of his mother and grandmother. In an interview decades later, he denied it was a serious suicide attempt, saying that "it was typical me. There was no way I was going to kill myself doing that." Sure enough, he was back to playing a stadium concert two days later.
Freudian Excuse: The titular protagonist of "All the Girls Love Alice" has her teenage rebellion attributed to "a simple case of Mummy Doesn't Love Me Blues."
Gratuitous Panning: The chorus of the "Crocodile Rock" (the "la, la, la, la, la" parts) are panned to where the vocals are on the left channel and the Farfisa organ melody is on the right channel. The rest of the song has quite a lot of panning as well, but the chorus is the most blatant part.
"The Last Song" (a song concerning a gay boy and his estranged father reconciling with each other on the boy's death bed as he was dying of AIDS). Written in memory of Ryan White (whom Elton knew), Bernie faxed the lyrics to him shortly after Freddie Mercury's death. Elton said that he had cried the whole time throughout making it.
"Candle in the Wind". Considering it was written about the death of one of the iconic women of the 20th century (Marilyn Monroe) and repurposed for another (Princess Diana) it's arguably the most famous of his grief songs.
"Blues Never Fade Away" from The Captain And The Kid mourns John Lennon, Ryan White and one other friend of Elton and Bernie's.
Hair-Trigger Temper: He is notorious for his outbursts, as captured in his husband David Furnish's 1995 documentary Tantrums And Tiaras.
Lyrical Dissonance: "I Think I'm Going to Kill Myself", "Since God Invented Girls", "Angeline".
Bernie Taupin at the time of the latter album's release noted that Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy was a very "up" album about failure, while The Captain And The Kid was a low-key album about success.
Medley: "Yell Help/Wednesday Night/Ugly" from Rock of the Westies"; "Gulliver/Hay Chewed/Reprise" on Empty Sky"; "Carla/Etude/Fanfare/Chloe" on The Fox.
Momma's Boy: He admitted to being one in part of "Tantrums and Tiaras".
Mondegreen: Dear Lord, Elton is the king of the mondegreens.
Morality Pet: Arguably, he's one for none other than Eminem.
Nobody over 50 Is Gay: While coming out long before he was fifty, he nonetheless makes this trope his bitch and then dances on its grave. Raising two kids in his sixties with his husband doesn't hurt either.
No Title: "This Song Has No Title" is—paradoxically enough—an aversion.
The Oner: The videos for "This Train Don't Stop Here Anymore"note Although not a complete one: it's more like 3 separate Oners. and "I Want Love".
Often, his outrageous costumes and goofy glasses ran on this, in a more clean-cut way, along with Rule of Fun and Up to Eleven. Donald Duck suits, Eiffel Tower hats, six-foot tall Mohawks, the glasses that lit up E-L-T-O-N. His 50th birthday saw him attend a costume party in a Louis XIV costume with a giant wig, where he had to be lifted off a truck via a crane. And that was after he toned down the costumes/glasses.
Rockstar Song: "Bennie And The Jets", "I'm Gonna Be A Teenage Idol" and some others.
Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: In one notorious, drug-fueled episode, he asked the manager of a hotel in stayed in to do something about the wind outside.
His 10-Minute Retirement from the road in 1977; he didn't tour again until 1979, and even then, it was a low-key piano-and-percussion tour with Ray Cooper. He returned to full rock and roll band performance mode in 1980.
Unlimited Wardrobe: Crazy hats, eyeglasses, sunglasses, platform shoes, outfits, costumes and other articles of clothing in The Seventies. He (slightly) toned them down by 1988, though the loud suits and Cool Shades he currently wears might also count. :)
Vocal Evolution: His throat surgery in 1987 changed his voice from a tenor to a baritone, and only deepened since. He has also rarely to never used his trademark falsetto range since the voice change.
"Well Done, Son" Guy: His biological father, according to Word of God, was an overly strict Royal Air Force trumpet player who berated Elton's interests in rock music, was unaffectionate towards him, and wanted him to dress conservatively and take a "proper" job. He did not allow Elton to play football in the yard for fear of trampling the garden in the lawn, and he constantly argued and fought with Elton's mother at home. Elton was terrified of him, and was happy when the pair split up; he and his stepfather had a much better relationship than Elton and his biological father. His biological dad wrote letters to Elton's supportive mom requesting Elton "get this silly rock and roll nonsense out of his system", berated Elton's talent in interviews in preference to Elton's half-brothers, and would never come to see Elton perform after the performer became a superstar. Much of the flamboyancy Elton took to as a rock star was in rebellion of his father's wishes. The relationship between Elton and his father (though written by outside lyricists) reflected in the lyrics to songs like "Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy", "Nobody Wins", "Made In England", and as Reality Subtext to his songs in the Billy Elliot musical.