Good Morning. We’re going to have some fun this week with a music legend: Elton John.
Sir Elton Hercules John, CBE (born Reginald Kenneth Dwight on 25 March 1947) is an English rock singer-songwriter, composer, pianist and occasional actor. He has worked with lyricist Bernie Taupin as his songwriter partner since 1967; they have collaborated on more than 30 albums to date.
In his four-decade career John has sold more than 250 million records, making him one of the most successful artists of all time. His single “Candle in the Wind 1997” has sold over 33 million copies worldwide, and is the best selling single in the history of the UK Singles Chart and the US Billboard Hot 100. He has more than 50 Top 40 hits, including seven consecutive No. 1 US albums, 56 Top 40 singles, 16 Top 10, four No. 2 hits, and nine No. 1 hits. He has won six Grammy Awards, four Brit Awards, an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award and a Tony Award. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked him Number 49 on its list of the 100 greatest artists of all time.
John was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. Having been named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1996, John received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II for “services to music and charitable services” in 1998. John has performed at a number of royal events, such as the funeral of Princess Diana at Westminster Abbey in 1997, and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Concert outside Buckingham Palace in 2012.
When John began to seriously consider a career in music, his father, who served as a Flight Lieutenant in the Royal Air Force, tried to steer him toward a more conventional career, such as banking. John has stated that his wild stage costumes and performances were his way of letting go after such a restrictive childhood. Both of John’s parents were musically inclined, his father having been a trumpet player with the Bob Millar Band, a semi-professional big band that played at military dances. The Dwights were keen record buyers, exposing John to the popular singers and musicians of the day, and John remembers being immediately hooked on rock and roll when his mother brought home records by Elvis Presley and Bill Haley & His Comets in 1956.
John started playing the piano at the age of 3, and within a year, his mother heard him picking out Winifred Atwell’s “The Skater’s Waltz” by ear. After performing at parties and family gatherings, at the age of 7 he took up formal piano lessons. He showed musical aptitude at school, including the ability to compose melodies, and gained some notoriety by playing like Jerry Lee Lewis at school functions. At the age of 11, he won a junior scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music. According to one of his instructors, John promptly played back, like a “gramophone record”, a four-page piece by Handel that he heard for the first time.
For the next five years he attended Saturday classes at the Academy in central London, and has stated that he enjoyed playing Chopin and Bach and singing in the choir during Saturday classes, but that he was not otherwise a diligent classical student. “I kind of resented going to the Academy”, he says. “I was one of those children who could just about get away without practising and still pass, scrape through the grades.” He even claims that he would sometimes skip classes and just ride around on the Tube. However, several instructors have testified that he was a “model student”, and during the last few years he was taking lessons from a private tutor in addition to his classes at the Academy.
Debut album to Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1969–1973)
When John transitioned to solo performance, he started wearing increasingly flamboyant clothing onstage, including this hat and domino mask
On the advice of music publisher Steve Brown, John and Taupin started writing more complex songs for John to record for DJM. The first was the single “I’ve Been Loving You” (1968), produced by Caleb Quaye, former Bluesology guitarist. In 1969, with Quaye, drummer Roger Pope, and bassist Tony Murray, John recorded another single, “Lady Samantha”, and an album, Empty Sky.
For their follow-up album, Elton John, John and Taupin enlisted Gus Dudgeon as producer and Paul Buckmaster as musical arranger. Elton John was released in April 1970 on DJM Records/Pye Records in the UK and Uni Records in the USA, and established the formula for subsequent albums; gospel-chorded rockers and poignant ballads. The first single from the album, “Border Song”, made into the US Top 100, peaking at Number 92. The second single “Your Song” made the US Top Ten, peaking at number eight and becoming John’s first hit single as a singer. The album soon became his first hit album, reaching number four on the Billboard 200 album chart.
Earliest surviving performance video of Elton