I have had the good fortune to photograph Elton John on several occasions. Today he is a legend whose film Rocket Man tells the story with mastery.

Sir Elton Hercules John, born Reginald Kenneth Dwight1 on March 25, 1947 in Pinner, Greater London is an English musician and singer-songwriter. He is also an occasional actor and film producer, having acted as much in cinema (Tommy, Spice World, the film and Kingsman: The Golden Circle) as in television series (Ally McBeal) and produced Rocketman (biographical film being devoted to him).

World pop icon, in more than fifty years of career, Elton john, with more than 300 million records sold, is one of the artists who have sold the most records. In 1993, he broke Elvis Presley's record in the United States by installing a new single in the US top 40 for the 24th consecutive year.

 

In 1997, his song Candle in the Wind became the best-selling single since the creation of the charts, with 33 million copies sold.

In 2008, he was ranked as the most successful male solo artist in the US magazine Billboard magazine's "Hot 100 Top All-Time Artists" with 56 singles listed in the Top 40, 27 in the Top 10, four No. 2 , and nine No. 19. During his career, he performed more than 4,000 times in concert in more than 80 countries.

 

Elton John's Story

Childhood and adolescence of Elton John

It was in Pinner, a small English town in Middlesex, that Reginald Kenneth Dwight spent his childhood. A normal childhood, strict but musical. He is the eldest son of Stanley Dwight (1925–1991), a Royal Air Force pilot who fought in World War II, and the only son of Sheila Eileen (née Harris, 1925–2017), an office worker.

From the age of 13, he wears large glasses to imitate Buddy Holly, Hank Marvin, this port becoming necessary with the singer's growing myopia.

 

 

 

His father listens to jazz like Frank Sinatra, he plays the trumpet and has a large collection of records. It is from the latter that Elton inherits his pronounced taste for music. However, he was always closer to his mother and grandmother than to his distant and cold father, and often gone on missions.

Music has always been his greatest “comfort” he says, having no siblings, and will remain so throughout his life. Reginald shows himself to be gifted for the piano which he learned with his grandmother: at the age of eleven, he won an award from the Royal Academy of Music.

 

Elton John concert, biography and movie

 

His parents often quarrel, which reinforces the introversion of Elton complexed by his physique of small fat and his old-fashioned clothes (he will explain later his extravagant look chosen by reaction). When he was fifteen, they divorced, his mother remarrying a painter-decorator, Fred Farebrother, who would prove to be a landmark for the young boy, taking an interest in Elton's musical career when the latter founded Bluesology. (in) in 1962.

It was at the time when he was a pianist of this group that he adopted the stage name of Elton John by combining the first names of saxophonist Elton Dean and singer Long John Baldry (he officially adopted this surname on February 9, 1972 , becoming Elton Hercules John in civil status), “two personalities who marked the young man, one for his beauty, the other for his assumed sexuality”.

Debut in music and first success

Elton John and Bernie Taupin in 1971
In June 1967, he responded to an ad in the London music newspaper New Musical Express in which songwriter Bernie Taupin was looking for a composer. He is a young author from Lincolnshire, a province in the center-east of England. From this meeting will be born a great friendship and a fruitful collaboration which still continues.

The publisher Dick James (in) recruited them in 1968 within the label DJM Records (in), sealing a duo at the origin of many successes. In the contract, the artist must produce two albums per year.

 

Elton John concert, biography and movie

Elton John concert, biography and movie

 

In 1969, his first album Empty Sky appeared, but it was the following year that he met success with the song Your Song which appeared on the Elton John album. His career really took off, while his third album Tumbleweed Connection appeared the same year he explored the western.

 

Golden period (1971-1976)

In the 1970s, Elton John and his group produced 17 albums in 9 years, including 7 consecutively raised to the top of the US charts: Honky Château, Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Caribou, Greatest Hits I, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, Rock of the Westies.

Between 1972 and 1975, Elton John lived mainly in the United States. His energy, his sartorial eccentricities, his billionaire lifestyle push him to the pinnacle. Beyond the talent, often criticized by his detractors, Elton John produces a joyful, colorful rock, which contrasts with the historical context (economic crisis, Vietnam, Watergate…).

In 1972, Elton John settles on the ramp of success and confirms his new popularity with the two albums Tumbleweed Connection and Madman Across the Water. He imposes a new musical style by relying on a solid formation of musicians not intended for studio recordings (Davey Johnstone, Dee Murray, Nigel Olsson).

 

 

Able to write and record his albums at a breakneck pace (his contract with DJM requiring him to release two albums per year), his tours take him to the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. . In 1973, he founded his own record company (ROCKET) and signed Kiki Dee and Neil Sedaka.

The same year, the remarkable Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player (which featured Daniel and Crocodile Rock), and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road were released. This double album connects successful titles: Candle in the Wind (dedicated to Marilyn Monroe), Bennie And the Jets, Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting), or the eponymous title.

The album is still considered Elton John's greatest artistic achievement today.

Intoxicated by the success at that time, Elton John confides in Cure d'amore, his autobiography published in 2012: “You cannot imagine what kind of selfish I had become. It was partly due to the drugs, partly to the way of life that was mine, and also to those around me who passed my every whim. I was devoured by alcohol, cocaine and whatever else ”.

 

 

In 1975, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy was born, often considered with Blue Moves and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road as one of the three peaks of the prolific career of the British singer.

These albums offer a melodic and often charged rock, very far from what Elton John was able to produce subsequently (in reference to the many ballads like Sacrifice or Can You Feel The Love Tonight, from the soundtrack of the Lion King). Still in 1975, Elton John played Pinball Wizard in Ken Russell's film Tommy, based on the work of guitarist Peter Townshend of the Who.

In 1975-1976, Elton John changed groups (his repertoire became more eclectic), and took a new musical turn in his career. In 1976, Elton John and his band released a new masterpiece, the double album Blue Moves. But it is the end of the golden period that sees a sharp drop in popularity following the public revelation of his homosexuality.

 

Delicate period (1977-1989)

Despite dozens of successful singles, the 1980s remained marked by ups and downs, associated with alcohol and drug abuse. He recently revealed to the British press that "his former drug addiction" had "ruined part of his life".

In 1979, he was the first Western artist to tour the USSR. That same year, he released the record Victim of Love, an album with disco sounds on which he did not sign any composition.
The disc is considered disappointing and has little success. At the same time, Elton, who lived part of the year in France, discovered the music of the couple France Gall and Michel Berger.

He contacts them for a collaboration. From this meeting will be born Donner to Give and Les Aveux, two titles united in 1980 on a 45 rpm which will soon reach the top of the French charts, and a solid friendship will result from it.

 

Elton John in the 1980s.

The beginning of the 1980s marked a turning point in Elton John's career when he produced world-famous hits such as Blue Eyes, Sad Songs (Say So Much) or even I Guess that's Why they Call it the Blues . In 1982, Elton John released the album Jump Up which included, in addition to Blue Eyes, the song Empty Garden composed in homage to John Lennon.

 

In 1983, he released the record Too Low for Zero. Elton John composes and interprets there, on a text by his faithful lyricist Bernie Taupin, I'm still standing, a title recognized as a snub to his detractors.

It is also on this album that is the ballad I Guess that's Why They Call it the Blues. During 1984, he released the album Breaking Hearts, marked by the flagship track Sad Songs (Say So Much). Controversy arose around this song after Elton John sold the rights to it for use in an advertisement.

1985 is marked by his participation in the Live Aid charity concert. Follows a period of uneven albums: Ice on Fire in 1985 and Leather Jackets in 1986, the latter considered by the artist as the worst of his career. In 1987 he recorded one of his most famous concerts on record: Live in Australia, with a symphony orchestra (conducted by James Newton Howard), from which was taken a new version of Candle in the Wind as a single, which will enter the top 5 american.

Elton John decides to reinterpret old songs, mainly from his second album. The singer suffers at this time from a cyst on the vocal cords and must undergo surgery shortly after the concert. Live in Australia nonetheless remains one of the highlights of his career. In 1988, Elton John revisited the pop-dance universe with his song I don't wanna go on with you like that.

 

The revival of the 1990s

In 1990, the single Sacrifice, from the album Sleeping with the Past, joined the artist's worldwide hits. The album is at the top of sales with 10 million copies sold to the public. In 1991 the live version of Don't let the sun go down on me with George Michael, became No. 1 in the United States, England and Japan upon its release. In 1992, the album The One enshrined Elton John's return to the forefront of the world stage after his drug rehab.

The eponymous single also became a world hit and ensured a very good career for this album. In 1994, Elton John made a brief North American tour during which he shared the stage with Billy Joel. Over the following years, the two men will meet occasionally for other series of concerts.

Elton John by Eric CANTO

Elton John by Eric CANTO

 

Also in 1994 released the soundtrack of Walt Disney's cartoon The Lion King, which sold 18 million copies worldwide and became a diamond disc that same year in the United States. Three of the songs from The Lion King: Circle of Life, Hakuna Matata and Can You Feel the Love Tonight composed by Elton will be nominated for the Oscar for Best Song and the last one will win the trophy.

In 1995 a critically acclaimed album was released: Made in England, from which the singles Believe, Made in England and Blessed were taken. In 1997, Elton released the album The Big Picture, from which the singles Live Like Horses (previously recorded with Luciano Pavarotti), If The River Can Bend and Recover Your Soul were extracted.

The same year, Candle in the Wind was rewritten by Bernie Taupin as a tribute to Diana Spencer. Elton John plays it at her funeral.

The new version is released as a single that has sold 33 million copies, with all copyright and songwriter rights going to the Lady Diana Foundation. It remains to this day the best-selling single in the world. In 1998, he composed the songs for the musical Aïda, produced by Walt Disney Theatrical Productions. In 1999, he composed the music for the film The Muse, in which Sharon Stone, Andie MacDowell and Jeff Bridges appear.

 

New shows (2000s)

In 2000, Elton John composed with Hans Zimmer the music for the film The Road to El Dorado. During the Grammy Awards, Elton John sings in duet with the American rapper Eminem the song Stan. In 2001, he was invited by the producer of the television series Ally McBeal, David Edward Kelley where he made a notable appearance.

2001 also marks the return to a style closer to his first albums, with opuses like Songs From The West Coast, Peachtree Road (2004) or The Captain & the Kid (2006) also approaching this artistic bias. The title The Captain & the Kid echoes the famous Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, and Bernie Taupin's lyrics deal with different moments in the careers of the two artists.

In 2004, he performed at Caesars Palace Colosseum as part of his show The Red Piano. A residency that will last no less than six years in addition to his concerts given around the world. The Red Piano will be performed hundreds of times in Las Vegas and draw millions of people before ending in 2009.

In 2005, he launched the musical Billy Elliot, inspired by the film released five years earlier. The critically and acclaimed project is a huge success and continues to draw audiences to Broadway, London and Australia.
In 2006, he sang in duet with the American singer Christina Aguilera, the song Bennie And The Jets at the Fashion Rocks.

Elton John concert, biography and movie

Elton John concert, biography and movie

 

Years 2010

On October 19, 2010, the album The Union was released, in a duet with Leon Russell, one of his idols. Critically acclaimed, the opus will be number 3 on the American charts the week of its release and will remain in the top 10 for three weeks. In 2011, the film Romeo and Juliet has for music a series of famous titles by Elton John.

He occasionally composed two new tracks, including a duet song with Lady Gaga, Hello Hello, which was nominated for the Golden Globe for best song. However, he loses at Madonna's expense. The same year, he sings in a duet with Kate Bush (of which he is "the idol of youth" according to the Telerama article of November 26) the title Snowed in at Wheeler Street on her album, 50 Words for Snow.

In 2011, he launched his second residency at Caesars Palace Colosseum with his show The Million Dollar Piano. A revolutionary concept since it presents spectators with a piano fully equipped with LED screens interfering with the rest of the stage. New success, the show will be played more than 250 times before retiring on May 19, 2018.

In 2012, Elton John entrusted all the titles of his catalog of the 1970s to an Australian electro group, Pnau. The concept of the Good Morning to the Night album is unique. The eight tracks of the album, are developed using samples from many songs from Elton John's catalog. On July 21, 2012, Elton John returned to number one in the UK charts after 22 years.

In 2013, he collaborated with the Fall Out Boy for a duet, on their song Save Rock and Roll in the album of the same name. He participated in the recording of the song Fairweather Friends on the album… Like Clockwork by Queens of the Stone Age released in June 2013.

In July 2013, he suffered from acute appendicitis, and canceled his summer tour. He was notably to play at the Vieilles Charrues festival, where he will be replaced by Patrick Bruel who will pay tribute to him by singing Your Song.

The programmers of the Vieilles Charrues announce at the end of the festival that Elton John wishes to be present the following year to honor his promise.

In September 2013, his thirtieth solo album, The Diving Board, was released, which will be number 3 on the UK charts for 6 weeks upon release.

Elton John concert, biography and movie

Elton John concert, biography and movie

 

The album received an excellent reception overall, both in England and in France. In November 2013, he participated in the third solo album of Gary Barlow, member of the group Take That, with a duet entitled Face to Face.

On July 15, 2014, he announced on stage in Carcassonne the end of his career at the end of this final tour. However, the next day, his press secretary Gary Furrow denied it and said it was "a joke".

In 2016, Elton John was invited by the Red Hot Chili Peppers to collaborate on the piano on their song Sick Love, the latter having reminded them of his style. Indeed, the melody of the vocal part of Sick Love is close to that of Bennie and the Jets.

On October 15, 2017, he announced the end of his residency at Caesars Palace Colosseum for May 2018. He regularly performed in this venue with his show “The Million Dollar Piano”. Since the start of this second residency in 2011, it will have attracted several million people in more than 250 shows. Since 2004 and his first residency in Las Vegas, the singer has performed more than 500 times at the Caesars Palace Colosseum.

 

Musical style

Classically trained on the piano (Chopin, Bach), Elton John was quickly influenced by gospel (he sang for several years in a choir at the Royal Academy of Music), the boogie-woogie piano (especially the school of New Orleans) and jazz then by rock (Little Richard, the Rolling Stones), pop (The beatles, The Beach Boys, Leon Russel) and country music.

His musical culture is impressive, he has hosted several shows on English radio to discover hidden treasures of music, in all styles. He compulsively buys dozens of records every week today (more than 200 CDs during a trip to the Virgin on the Champs-Élysées in 2005).

These different sources of inspiration explain the diversity of his production: classical music is found in titles such as Tonight or Carla / Etude, gospel for example in Burn Down The Mission or Honky Cat, rock in Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting), country in My Father's Gun or more recently Turn The Lights out when You Leave.

In concert, his improvisation skills on the piano (especially during his solo concerts or accompanied by Ray Cooper on percussion) have delighted audiences for 40 years. His voice, which lost its treble since polyps on his vocal cords in 1986, has however gained in power.

He performs in diverse groups, sometimes within the same tour: alone on the piano, he on the piano and Ray Cooper on percussion, with his group of musicians, with a symphony orchestra (Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in 1986, Orchester de la Royal Academy Of Music and the Julliard School in 2002 and 2004) or with other rock stars, such as his tours with Eric Clapton and Billy Joel.

Elton John and the groups of musicians he surrounded himself with during his career (Ray Cooper and Nigel Olson on percussion, James Newton Howard and Guy Babylon on keyboards, Caleb Quaye and Davey Johnstone on guitar, Dee Murray and Bob Birch on bass, Paul Buckmaster on arrangements, etc.) used a diverse, modern and orchestral style of music.

The competition of famous producers like Gus Dudgeon, master builder of the most famous albums of the British artist also actively participated in his success. Elton John's discography is marked by several periods of "golden ages" from the album Elton John (1970) through Blue Moves (1976), Too Low for Zero (1983), the soundtrack of the Lion King (1994), Made in England (1995), Songs from the West Coast (2001), The Captain & the Kid (2006) or The Union (2010).

Considered one of the undisputed kings42 of pop, he has been able to highlight his diversity on several occasions, like this duet with rapper Tupac "Ghetto Gospel" 43 but also with the English heavy metal group Saxon or during his duet with George Michael Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me. Or with rapper Eminem in a duet for the song Stan.

 

Elton John concert, biography and movie

English singer

 

Commitments

In 1992, Elton John launched a foundation to fight AIDS, support research and fight discrimination, The Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF). He hosts the 9th World AIDS Conference on July 24, 2012 in Washington, assisted by the Bill Gates Foundation, during which US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, President Barack Obama and former Secretary State Colin Powell were praised by the artist for their support for same-sex marriage.

He is passionate about football, his club of always heart is the Watford Football Club, club which he owned for 25 years and of which he is "president for life". Elton John also invested in the American club of the Los Angeles Aztecs where George Best played.

 

Elton John concert, biography and movieElton John concert, biography and movie

 

Discography

Bluesology With Caleb Quaye, Elton Dean, Elton John, Fred Gandy, Long John Baldry, Marc Charig and Neil Hubbard.

1965: Come Back, Baby / Times Getting Tougher Than Tough - Single.
1966: Mr. Frantic / Every Day I Have the Blues - Single.
1967: Since I Found You Baby / Just a little bit - Single.
1969: Mr Boyd / Imagine - Single.

Elton John studio albums

  • 1969: Empty Sky
  • 1970: Elton John
  • 1970: Tumbleweed Connection
  • 1971: Madman Across the Water
  • 1972: Honky Château
  • 1973: Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player
  • 1973: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
  • 1974: Caribou
  • 1975: Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy
  • 1975: Rock of the Westies
  • 1976: Blue Moves
  • 1978: A Single Man
  • 1979: Victim of Love
  • 1980: 21 at 33
  • 1981: The Fox
  • 1982: Jump Up!
  • 1983: Too Low for Zero
  • 1984: Breaking Hearts
  • 1985: Ice on Fire
  • 1986: Leather Jackets
  • 1988: Reg Strikes Back
  • 1989: Sleeping with the Past
  • 1992: The One
  • 1993: Duets
  • 1995: Made in England
  • 1997: The Big Picture
  • 2000: The Road to El Dorado (songs from the movie)
  • 2001: Songs from the West Coast
  • 2004: Peachtree Road
  • 2006: The Captain and the Kid
  • 2010: The Union (with Leon Russell)
  • 2013: The Diving Board
  • 2016: Wonderful Crazy Night

 

Collaborations

  • 1974: Walls And Bridges by John Lennon - Elton piano, organ and vocals on Whatever Gets You Thru The Night, backing vocals on Surprise, Surprise (Sweet Bird Of Paradox)
  • 1974: Goodnight Vienna by Ringo Starr - Elton piano on Snookeroo, written by Elton and Bernie Taupin.
  • 1975: Sweet Deceiver by Kevin Ayers - Elton piano on Guru Banana, Always La Voyage and Circular Letter.
  • 1975: Tommy Original Soundtrack Recording by The Who - Elton piano and vocals on Pinball Wizard.
  • 2020: "Sine from Above" - Lady Gaga and Elton John (from the album "Chromatica")
  • 2020: "Ordinary Man" by Ozzy Osbourne and Elton John (from the album of the same name)
  • 2020: "The Pink Phantom" by Gorillaz with Elton John and 6LACK

 

Covers and samples by Elton John

Among the many artists who have taken over the titles of Elton John's repertoire, we can mention:

  • Aretha Franklin (Border Song)
  • Kate Bush (Rocket Man, Candle in the Wind)
  • Lady Gaga (Your Song)
  • Tori Amos (Tiny Dancer)
  • Rod Stewart (Country comfort, Your Song)
  • Jeff Buckley (We All Fall in Love Sometimes, Curtains)
  • Dream Theater (Funeral for a Friend)
  • Keane (Goodbye Yellow Brick Road)
  • Rufus Wainwright (Goodbye Yellow Brick Road)
  • Jason Mraz (Rocket Man)
  • Queen (Saturday Night's Alright)
  • Ray Charles (Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word)
  • Ben Folds (Tiny Dancer)
  • Dave Grohl (Tiny Dancer)
  • Billy Paul (Your Song)
  • Al Jarreau (Your Song)
  • Eric Clapton (Border Song)
  • The Beach Boys (Crocodile Rock)
  • WASP (Crocodile Rock)
  • The Who (Saturday Night's Alright)
  • Toto (Burn Down the Mission)
  • Phil Collins (Burn Down the Mission)
  • Sting (Come Down in Time)
  • Bon Jovi (Levon)
  • Nickelback (Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting)
  • Sinéad O'Connor (Sacrifice)
  • Frank Sinatra (Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word)
  • George Michael (Tonight, Idol, Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me)
  • Bruce Hornsby (Madman Across the Water)
  • Tina Turner (The Bitch is Back)
  • Kid Rock (Saturday Night's Alright)
  • Brian Wilson (Someone Saved my Life Tonight)
  • Norah Jones (Tiny Dancer)
  • Diana Krall (Border Song)
  • Joe Cocker (Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word)
  • John Frusciante (Your Song, Tiny Dancer)
  • Al Jarreau (Your Song)
  • Beastie Boys (Bennie and the Jets)
  • Wilson Phillips (Daniel)
  • Judith Durham (Skyline Pigeon, Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters)…
  • Considered a source of inspiration and a reference in the musical world, other artists have sampled the pieces
  • by Elton John: Mary J. Blige (Bennie And The Jets), Kanye West (Someone Saved My Life Tonight), Tupac Shakur (Indian Sunset),
  • Norman Cook (Are You Ready For Love), Ironik (Tiny Dancer).

 

 

Nominations and awards

  • 1st artist to receive a Brit Icon Award
  • 18 Brit Awards
  • 6 Grammy Awards
  • 14 Tony Awards
  • 1 NRJ Music Awards
  • 11 MTV Video Music Awards
  • 8 Ivor Novello Awards
  • 2 Oscars: Oscar for best original song in 1995 for The Lion King with the song Can You Feel the Love Tonight and in 2020 for (I'm Gonna) Love Me Again (en) in Rocketman
  • 1 Harvard Humanitarian Award in 2017
  • 1 Golden Globe for Best Original Song for (I'm Gonna) Love Me Again in Rocketman in 2020

 

 


 

Eric CANTO Photographer: Concert photos, portraits, album covers.

Visit my portfolio Visit the blog Visit the shop contact me

 

 

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