Elton John celebrates his 75th birthday on Friday. Despite his age, the artist is still in the spotlight, thanks to the movie Rocketman , his autobiography and hits with contemporary artists such as Dua Lipa.
Reginald Kenneth Dwight, as Elton John is actually called, is experiencing his peak period in the seventies, with hits such as Rocket Man , Bennie And The Jets and Candle In The Wind (a tribute to Marilyn Monroe).
It starts in 1967, when John responds to an advertisement from a record company that is looking for songwriters and composers. Bernie Taupin, with whom John would later work frequently, also answers the ad. John is commissioned to compose music to the lyrics previously written by Taupin. Together they make John’s first hit: Your Song (in 1970).
“We’ve never had a fight,” the singer says in 2017 about their collaboration. “That’s special, because nothing has changed since the first time we worked together.”
1972’s Honky Château , John’s fifth studio album, is his first album to reach #1 in the United States. That also works with the next six albums that he releases.
I’m Still Standing and Lion King music great successes
In 1977 John takes his foot off the accelerator. He announces that he no longer wishes to perform and during this period ‘only’ releases one album a year.
I’m Still Standing is a great success again in 1983, but after that there are no real big hits for the time being.
In the 1990s, John is asked to compose the music for the Disney film The Lion King . He wins the Oscar for best song thanks to Can You Feel The Love Tonight and with his rendition of that ballad he also wins a Grammy Award.
After the death of the British Princess Diana, a good friend of John, he asks writing partner Taupin if he would like to make a new version of Candle In The Wind with him. He first sings it live at her funeral. A total of 33 million copies of the single version are sold worldwide.
In the new millennium, John scores few hits – he also releases far fewer albums. He did reach the number 1 position again in 2003, with a new version of Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word , which he recorded with the then popular boy group Blue.
By working together with contemporary artists who are sometimes fifty years younger than John, he still manages to score in 2021. In corona time he makes the album The Lockdown Sessions , for which he collaborates with Lil Nas X, Miley Cyrus and Years & Years, among others. With Dua Lipa he adapted his previous hits Rocket Man and Sacrifice into one song that became a big hit with the title Cold Heart . The song has already collected more than 718 million streams on Spotify.
John’s Love Life: Engaged to a Woman, Then Came Out
In the early 1970s, John becomes engaged to his first love Linda Woodrow, about whom he also sings in the song Someone Saved My Life Tonight . It eventually does not come to a marriage, but that does happen in 1984, when he marries Renate Blauel (played in Rocketman by the Dutch Celinde Schoenmaker).
According to the tabloid press, the marriage was consummated to hide his homosexuality; John previously stated that he can fall in love with both men and women.
It is a turbulent time in John’s life for several reasons: in 1988 he divorces Blauel and later he tells Rolling Stone that he is gay after all. His first steady relationship with a man is with filmmaker David Furnish, whom he met in the early 1990s and with whom he remains to this day.
The couple are one of the first gay couples to sign a cohabitation contract in Britain and get married nine years later, once same-sex marriage is legal.
They have two sons with the help of a surrogate mother: Zachary, who was born in 2010, and Elijah, who was born in 2013. John also has ten godchildren, including the sons of David and Victoria Beckham.
In his heyday, John sells hundreds of thousands of records and tours countless sold-out halls, but behind the scenes his life is less rosy. He becomes addicted to cocaine, a drug he uses to be less shy and gets from his then manager. Later, the artist says that he mainly experienced the seventies and eighties in a “haze of drugs”.
In addition, John smokes weed and drinks a lot of alcohol. He sometimes does not eat for days and then has binge eating, which also causes him to get bulimia. “When I look back on this time, I shudder at myself,” John later said in an interview with Piers Morgan. He said he was teetering on the brink of death. “One minute I was having a seizure, forty minutes later I was snorting a line.”
Meanwhile, John’s addiction gets worse. Out of fear of getting AIDS – in the eighties there was an epidemic of the then untreatable disease – he started using more. During that time, John meets an AIDS patient who convinces him to stop using drugs. He then founds the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
The singer has been clean for 29 years now. Addiction, in whatever form, continues to play a role in his life. “I’m addicted to work,” he told The Guardian . “All that touring almost cost me my life.”
John ‘s Farewell Yellow Brick Road farewell tour was in full swing when the coronavirus threw a spanner in the works. The singer’s injuries also cause delays. He is now performing in the United States again and Europe will follow in the spring. On June 9, John can be seen once more on Dutch soil: in the GelreDome. The singer is still on the way with the concert series until the summer of 2023.