Elton John (Composer)
Reg Dwight better known as Sir Elton Hercules John is one of the most successful singer-songwriters of the modern era. His collaborations with Bernie Taupin (in the pop music field) and Sir Tim Rice (in more recent musical theatre) have landed him numerous awards, from Grammys and Brit Awards to Oscars and Tonys.
Early Years & Pop Music
Elton John was born on 25th March 1947 in Pinner, Middlesex, England, as Reginald Kenneth Dwight. His father was Stanley Dwight, a Flight Lieutenant in the Royal Air Force, he didn't marry Elton's mother, Sheila Eileen Dwight, until Elton was 6, By the time he was only three though he'd started playing the piano and at the age of seven started formal lessons. At the age of 11 he was given a junior scholarship to the The Royal Academy of Music where he attended classes for the next four/five years. At the age of 15 he landed a job as a pianist on weekends at a pub close to his home, The Northwood Hills Hotel where he was known as 'Reggie'. As time went on he founded the band 'Bluesology' in 1964 who became a backing touring band for the likes of The Isley Brothers and Patty LaBelle & The Bluebelles.
In 1967 Elton met his lifelong collabarator Bernie Taupin. Both answered an advertisement in the New Musical Express placed by Liberty Records A&R manager Ray Williams. The first Taupin/John song which was recorded was called Scarecrow. At this time Elton was still being known as Reg Dwight but this changed six months later when he formed the name Elton John as an homage to Bluesology saxophonist Elton Dean and Long John Baldry. In 1968 Taupin and John became staff songwriters for DJM Records, owned by Dick James and over the next two years they wrote songs for artists such as Lulu and Roger Cook. Over this two years Elton also worked as a session musician, one of the recordings he made at this time was the piano part on The Hollies' single He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother.
In 1969 Elton began recording songs by himself and Bernie with the first album being entitled Empty Sky. The follow-up album in 1970 was simply entitled Elton John. The second of the singles from this album Your Song made it to number 8 on the US charts and was Elton's first 'hit'. The single triggered more sales of the album which was his first to break the Billboard Top 200. The album was backed up by his first concert in the US at The Troubadour in Los Angeles in August of 1970 and was a tremendous success. In 1972 Elton and his band which now included Davey Johnstone released the album Honky Chateau which was the first album of Elton's to top the US charts and also held the hit singles Rocket Man and Honky Cat. 1973 saw the establishing of Elton as a true star within the pop field having his most popular year yet, two albums Don't Shoot Me I'm Only The Piano Player and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road produced a stream of some of John's most popular songs : Crocodile Rock and Daniel on the former whilst the latter had included the songs Bennie and the Jets, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Candle in the Wind and Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting. Over the next few years John established himself as one of the leading names in Pop/Rock music, he formed the record company 'Rocket Records' which released not only his material but also re-launched the career of singer-songwriter Neil Sedaka amongst others. As the eighties kicked in, after several years excess and success, Elton performed at Live Aid in 1985. The next year saw John lose his voice and be forced to have an operation that would change his voice permanently. The eighties saw a collection of more hits but it was only in 1990 with the release of Sacrifice that Elton obtained his first UK Number 1 as a solo artist (his only other chart topper had been Don't go breaking my heart, a duet with Kiki Dee back in 1976).
The 1990s and moving into movies
In 1992 Elton and Taupin signed a new publishing deal with Warner/Chappell Music for an estimated $39 million, which was the biggest advance in music publishing history at that time. In 1994 Elton teamed with up with a new collaborator, Tim Rice, to create the music for The Lion King for Walt Disney Pictures which went on to earn them both an Academy Award for Best Song (1995) for Can You Feel The Love Tonight. Elton also won a Grammy (Best Male Pop Vocal 1995) for the same song. He still recorded his own albums and was still having hits. He was also a close personal friend of Princess Diana of Wales, and when, tragically, she was killed in a car crash in 1997 Elton asked Bernie if he would re-lyricise their 1973 hit 'Candle in the Wind' for the funeral of the Princess at which Elton performed it. The song, Candle in the Wind 1997 became the fastest and biggest selling single of all-time selling around 33 million copies worldwide. It is still currently the biggest selling single of all-time. In 1998 Elton helped adapt the music he'd created for The Lion King for the stage production and in 1999 he teamed up again with Tim Rice to create the musical Aida which won both of them the Tony Award for Best Musical Score at the 54th Tony Awards. and the Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album, the same year. In 2000 Rice & John created the music for the Dreamworks movie The Road To Eldorado whilst as a solo artist Elton released his 27th album Songs from the West Coast in 2001. In 2005 Elton created the music for the stage show of Billy Elliot. Thoughout the last forty-five years Elton has constantly been performing, most recently in Las Vegas. He has now released 31 studio albums, performed all over the world, and is one of the biggest selling artists in popular music history. In 2014 he announced at a French music festival of his plans to retire to spend more time with his family. He entered into a civil partnership with his long time partner, David Furnish on December 21, 2005 and they have two sons born by surrogacy, Zachary on 25th December 2010 and Elijah who was both on January 11, 2013.
Selected list of Musicals & Movies for which Sir Elton John has written music;
- The Lion King [Movie 1994, Musical 1998] Lyrics by Tim Rice Won the Oscar for Best Song (Can You Feel the Love Tonight)
- Aida (1999) [Musical] Lyrics by Tim Rice Won the Tony Award for Best Musical Score & Grammy for Best Musical Show Album
- Billy Elliot (2005) [Musical] Lyrics by Lee Hall
- The Road To Eldorado (2000) [Movie] Lyrics by Tim Rice
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