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 Diane at Westminster Abbey in 1997, and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Concert outside Buckingham Palace in 2012. He has been heavily involved in the fight against AIDS since the late 1980s. In 1992, he established the Elton John AIDS Foundation and a year later began hosting the annual Academy Award Party, which has since become one of the highest-profile Oscar parties in the Hollywood film industry. Since its inception, the foundation has raised over $200 million.
John entered into a civil partnership with David Furnish on 21 December 2005 and continues to be a champion for LGBT social movements. In 2008, Billboard magazine ranked him as the most successful male solo artist on "The Billboard Hot 100 Top All-Time Artists" (third overall, behind only The Beatles and Madonna)
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.
At the age of 15, with the help of his mother and stepfather, Reginald Dwight became a weekend pianist at a nearby pub, the Northwood Hills Hotel, playing Thursday to Sunday nights for a meager wage. Known simply as "Reggie", he played a range of popular standards, including songs by Jim Reeves and Ray Charles, as well as songs he had written himself. A stint with a short-lived group called the Corvettes rounded out his time. In 1964, Dwight and his friends formed a band called Bluesology. By day, he ran errands for a music publishing company; he divided his nights between solo gigs at a London hotel bar and working with Bluesology. By the mid-1960s, Bluesology was backing touring American soul and R&B musicians like The Isley Brothers, Major Lance, Billy Stewart, Doris Troy and Patti LaBelle and The Bluebelles. In 1966, the band became musician Long John Baldry's supporting band and played 16 times at The Marquee Club.
[update]. When the two first met in 1967 they recorded what would become the first Elton John/Bernie Taupin song: "Scarecrow". Six months later Dwight was going by the name "Elton John" in homage to Bluesology saxophonist Elton Dean and Long John Baldry. The team of John and Taupin joined Dick James's DJM Records as staff songwriters in 1968, and over the next two years wrote material for various artists, like Roger Cook and Lulu. Taupin would write a batch of lyrics in under an hour and give it to John, who would write music for them in half an hour, disposing of the lyrics if he couldn't come up with anything quickly. For two years, they wrote easy-listening tunes for James to peddle to singers. Their early output included a contender for the British entry for the Eurovision Song Contest in 1969, for Lulu, called "Can't Go On (Living Without You)". It came sixth of six songs. In 1969, John provided piano for Roger Hodgson on his first released recording, the single "Mr. Boyd" by Argosy, a quartet that was completed by Caleb Quaye and Nigel Olsson.
John and Taupin then wrote the soundtrack to the obscure film Friends and then the album Madman Across the Water, the latter reaching the Top Ten and producing the hit "Levon", while the soundtrack album produced the hit "Friends". In 1972, Davey Johnstone joined the Elton John Band on guitar and backing vocals. The band released Honky Chateau, which became John's first American number 1 album, spending five weeks at the top of the charts and spawning the hit singles "Rocket Man (I Think It's Going To Be A Long, Long Time)"
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road gained instant critical acclaim and topped the chart on both sides of the Atlantic, remaining at Number 1 for two months. It also temporarily established John as a glam rock star. It contained the number 1 hit "Bennie and the Jets", along with the popular and praised "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road", "Candle in the Wind", "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting", "Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding" and "Grey Seal" (originally recorded and released in 1970 as the B-side to the UK-only single "Rock and Roll Madonna"). There is also a VHS and DVD as part of the Classic Albums series, discussing the making, recording, and popularity of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road through concert and home video footage including interviews.
John formed his own MCA-distributed label Rocket Records and signed acts to it – notably Neil Sedaka ("Bad Blood", on which he sang background vocals) and Kiki Dee – in which he took a personal interest. Instead of releasing his own records on Rocket, he opted for $8 million offered by MCA. When the contract was signed in 1974, MCA reportedly took out a $25 million insurance policy on John's life. In 1974 MCA released Greatest Hits, his ninth album. In 1974 a collaboration with John Lennon took place, resulting in Lennon appearing on John's single cover of The Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", the b-side of which was Lennon's "One Day at a Time. In return John was featured on "Whatever Gets You thru the Night" on Lennon's "Walls and Bridges" album. Later that year, on Thanksgiving Day, in what would be Lennon's last major live performance, the pair performed these two number 1 hits along with the Beatles classic "I Saw Her Standing There" at Madison Square Garden in New York. Lennon made the rare stage appearance with John and his band to keep the promise he made that he would appear on stage with John if "Whatever Gets You Thru The Night" became a number 1 single. Caribou was released in 1974 and, although it reached number 1, it was widely considered a lesser quality album. Reportedly recorded in a scant two weeks between live appearances, it featured "The Bitch Is Back" and the lushly orchestrated "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me."
According to Circus Magazine a spokesman for John Reid said the decision was reached mutually via phone while John was in Australia promoting Tommy. She said there was no way Reid could have fired them "because the band are not employed by John Reid, they're employed by Elton John." She went on to say Nigel would be going back to his solo work and Dee would do session work "and possibly cut a solo album."
The rock-oriented Rock of the Westies entered the US albums chart at number 1 like Captain Fantastic, a previously unattained feat. Elton John's stage wardrobe now included ostrich feathers, $5,000 spectacles that spelled his name in lights, and dressing up like the Statue of Liberty, Donald Duck, or Mozart, among others, at his concerts. To celebrate five years since he first appeared at the venue, in 1975 John played a two-night, four-show stand at The Troubadour. With seating limited to under 500 per show, the chance to purchase tickets was determined by a postcard lottery, with each winner allowed two tickets. Everyone who attended the performances received a hardbound "yearbook" of the band's history. That year he also played piano on Kevin Ayers' Sweet Deceiver, and was among the first and few white artists to appear on the black music series Soul Train on American television. On August 9th, 1975, John was named the outstanding rock personality of the year at the first annual Rock Music Awards at ceremonies held in Santa Monica, California. In 1976, the live album Here and There was released in May, followed by the Blue Moves album in October, which contained the single "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word". His biggest success in 1976 was "Don't Go Breaking My Heart", a duet with Kiki Dee that topped both the American and British charts. Finally, in an interview with Rolling Stone that year entitled "Elton's Frank Talk", John stated that he was bisexual.
His 1981 album, The Fox, was recorded in part during the same sessions as 21 at 33, and also included collaborations with Tom Robinson and Judie Tzuke. On 13 September 1980, John, with Olsson and Murray back in the Elton John Band, performed a free concert to an estimated 400,000 fans on The Great Lawn in Central Park in New York City. His 1982 hit "Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)", came from his Jump Up! album, his second under a new US recording contract with Geffen Records.
He married his close friend and sound engineer, Renate Blauel, on Valentine's Day 1984 – the marriage lasted three years. The Biography Channel Special detailed the loss of Elton's voice in 1986 while on tour in Australia. Shortly thereafter he underwent throat surgery, which permanently altered his voice. Several non-cancerous polyps were removed from his vocal cords, resulting in a change in his singing voice. In 1987 he won a libel case against The Sun which published allegations of sex with rent boys.
In 1988, John performed five sold-out shows at New York's Madison Square Garden, giving him 26 for his career. Netting over $20 million, 2,000 items of John's memorabilia were auctioned off at Sotheby's in London.
In 1990, John finally achieved his first UK number one hit on his own, with "Sacrifice" (coupled with "Healing Hands") from the previous year's album Sleeping with the Past; it would stay at the top spot for six weeks. The following year, John's "Basque" won the Grammy for Best Instrumental, and a guest concert appearance he had made on George Michael's cover of "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" was released as a single and topped the charts in both the US and UK. At the 1991 Brit Awards in London, Elton John won the award for Best British Male. In 1992 he released the US number 8 album The One, featuring the hit song "The One". John and Taupin then signed a music publishing deal with Warner/Chappell Music for an estimated $39 million over 12 years, giving them the largest cash advance in music publishing history. In April 1992, John appeared at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert at Wembley Stadium, performing "The Show Must Go On" with the remaining members of Queen, and "Bohemian Rhapsody" with Axl Rose of Guns N' Roses and Queen. In September, John performed "The One" at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards, and also closed the ceremony performing "November Rain" with Guns N' Roses. The following year, he released Duets, a collaboration with 15 artists including Tammy Wynette and RuPaul. This also included a new collaboration with Kiki Dee, entitled "True Love", which reached the Top 10 of the UK charts.
In early September, John contacted his writing partner Bernie Taupin, asking him to revise the lyrics of his 1973 song "Candle in the Wind" to honour Diana, and Taupin rewrote the song accordingly. On September 6th, 1997, John performed "Candle in the Wind 1997" at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales in Westminster Abbey. The song became the fastest, and biggest-selling single of all time, eventually selling over 33 million copies worldwide. The best-selling single in UK Chart history, it sold 4.86 million copies in the UK. The best-selling single in Billboard history, and the only single ever certified Diamond in the United States, the single sold over 11 million copies in the U.S. The song proceeds of approximately £55 million were donated to the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund. It would win John the Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance at the 40th Grammy Awards ceremony in 1998. John has publicly performed "Candle in the Wind 1997" only once, at Diana's funeral, vowing never to perform it again unless asked by Diana's sons.
In March 2007 he performed at Madison Square Garden for a record breaking 60th time for his 60th birthday, the concert was broadcast live and a DVD recording was released as Elton 60 - Live at Madison Square Garden; a greatest-hits compilation CD, Rocket Man – Number Ones, was released in 17 different versions worldwide, including a CD/DVD combo; and his back catalogue – almost 500 songs from 32 albums – became available for legal download.
On 4 June 2012, Elton John performed at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Concert at Buckingham Palace, performing a repertoire including "Your Song", "Crocodile Rock" and "I'm Still Standing". On 30 June, Elton performed in Kiev, Ukraine at a joint concert with Queen + Adam Lambert for the Elena Pinchuk ANTIAIDS Foundation. An album containing remixes of songs that John recorded in the 1970s called Good Morning to the Night was released in July 2012. The remixes were conducted by Australian group Pnau and the album reached No. 1 in the U.K. charts, the first of Elton John's albums to do this for 22 years. At the 2012 Pride of Britain Awards on 30 October, Elton John, along with Michael Caine, Richard Branson, Simon Cowell and Stephen Fry, recited Rudyard Kipling's poem If - in tribute to the 2012 British Olympic and Paralympics heroes.
In the late 1960s, John was engaged to be married to his first lover, secretary Linda Woodrow, who is mentioned in the song "Someone Saved My Life Tonight". He married German recording engineer Renate Blauel o February 14th 1984, in Darling Point, Sydney, with speculation that the marriage was a cover for his homosexuality. John had come out as bisexual in a 1976 interview with Rolling Stone, but after his divorce from Blauel in 1988 he told the magazine that he was "comfortable" being gay. However, he is often photographed wearing Christian regalia, particularly large crucifixes round his neck, which has led many journalists to detect an ambivalence about his views on sexuality. In 1993, John began a relationship with David Furnish, a former advertising executive and now filmmaker. John and Furnish entered a civil partnership on December 21st, 2005. They held a low-key ceremony at the Windsor Guildhall, followed by a lavish party at their Berkshire mansion, thought to have cost £1 million. Their son, Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John, was born to a surrogate mother on December 25th, 2010 in California. John and Furnish chose Lady Gaga, magazine editor Ingrid Sischy, and Sichy's partner Sandy Brant as Zachary's godmothers. A second son, Elijah Joseph Daniel Furnish-John, was born to the couple by the same surrogate mother on 11 January 2013. In September 2009, John announced his intention to adopt a 14-month-old boy, Lev, from an AIDS orphanage in Ukraine, but he was denied due to his age and marital status. Furnish stated they would continue to financially support Lev and his brother and would campaign for a change in Ukrainian law. John has ten known godchildren, including Sean Lennon, David and Victoria Beckham's sons Brooklyn and Romeo, Elizabeth Hurley's son Damian Charles, and the daughter of Seymour Stein.
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