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Sir Elton Hercules John (Order of the British Empire) (born Reginald Kenneth Dwight, 25 March 1947)[1][2] is an English singer, songwriter, composer, pianist, record producer, 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 five-decade career Elton John has sold more than 300 million records, making him one of the best-selling music artists in the world.[3][4] He has more than fifty Top 40 hits, including seven consecutive No. 1 US albums, 58 Billboard Top 40 singles, 27 Top 10, four No. 2 and nine No. 1. For 31 consecutive years (1970–2000) he had at least one song in the Billboard Hot 100. His single "Something About the Way You Look Tonight"/"Candle in the Wind 1997" sold over 33 million copies worldwide and is "the best-selling single of all time".[5][6][7] He has received six Grammy Awards, five Brit Awards – winning two awards for Outstanding Contribution to Music and the first Brits Icon in 2013 for his "lasting impact on British culture", an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, a Tony Award, a Disney Legend award, and the Kennedy Center Honors in 2004. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked him Number 49 on its list of 100 influential musicians of the rock and roll era.[8] In 2008, Billboard ranked him the most successful male solo artist on "The Billboard Hot 100 Top All-Time Artists" (third overall).[9]

Elton John was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, is an inductee into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame, and is a fellow of the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors.[10][11] Having been named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1996, John received a knighthood from Elizabeth II for "services to music and charitable services" in 1998.[12] John has performed at a number of royal events, such as the funeral of Princess Diana at Westminster Abbey in 1997, the Party at the Palace in 2002 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.[13] 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.[14] John, who announced he was bisexual in 1976 and has been openly gay since 1988, entered into a civil partnership with David Furnish on 21 December 2005, and after gay marriage became legal in England, wed Furnish on 21 December 2014. He continues to be a champion for LGBT social movements worldwide and same-sex marriage.

Life and career

Early life

Elton John was born Reginald Kenneth Dwight on 25 March 1947, the eldest child of Stanley and only child of Sheila Eileen Dwight (née Harris),[15][16][17] and was raised in Pinner, Middlesex in a council house of his maternal grandparents. His parents did not marry until he was 6 years old, when the family moved to a nearby semi-detached house.[18][19][20] He was educated at Pinner Wood Junior School, Reddiford School and Pinner County Grammar School, until age 17, when he left just prior to his A Level examinations to pursue a career in the music industry.[21][22][23]

When he began to seriously consider a career in music, Elton John's father, who served as a Flight Lieutenant in the Royal Air Force, tried to steer him toward a more conventional career, such as banking.[21] John has stated that his wild stage costumes and performances were his way of letting go after such a restrictive childhood.[23] 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.[23] 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.[21][22]

Elton 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.[21][22] 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.[22]

For the next five years he attended Saturday classes at the Academy in central London, and has stated that he enjoyed playing Frédéric Chopin and Johann Sebastian Bach and singing in the choir during Saturday classes, but that he was not otherwise a diligent classical student.[22] "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."[22] He even claims that he would sometimes skip classes and just ride around on the Tube.[22] 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.[22]

Elton John's mother, though also strict with her son, was more vivacious than her husband, and something of a free spirit. With Stanley Dwight uninterested in his son and often physically absent, John was raised primarily by his mother and maternal grandmother. When his father was home, the Dwights would have terrible arguments that greatly distressed their son.[22] When John was 14, they divorced. His mother then married a local painter, Fred Farebrother, a caring and supportive stepfather whom John affectionately referred to as "Derf", his first name in reverse.[22] They moved into flat No. 1A in an eight-unit apartment building called Frome Court, not far from both previous homes. It was there that John would write the songs that would launch his career as a rock star; he would live there until he had four albums simultaneously in the American Top 40.[24]

Personal life

Sexuality and family

In the late 1960s, Elton John was engaged to be married to his first lover, secretary Linda Woodrow, who is mentioned in the song "Someone Saved My Life Tonight".[25][26] He married German recording engineer Renate Blauel on 14 February 1984, in Darling Point, Sydney, with speculation that the marriage was a cover for his homosexuality. John came out as bisexual in a 1976 interview with Rolling Stone,[25][26] but after his divorce from Blauel in 1988, he told the magazine that he was "comfortable" being gay.[27]

In 1993, he began a relationship with David Furnish, a former advertising executive and now filmmaker originally from Toronto, Canada. On 21 December 2005 (the day that the Civil Partnership Act came into force), John and Furnish were amongst the first couples in the UK to form a civil partnership, which was held at the Windsor Guildhall.[28] After gay marriage became legal in England in March 2014, John and Furnish married in Windsor, Berkshire, on 21 December 2014, the ninth anniversary of their civil partnership.[29][30][31][32] They have two sons. Their oldest, Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John, was born to a surrogate mother on 25 December 2010 in California.[33][34] A second son, Elijah Joseph Daniel Furnish-John, was born to the couple by the same surrogate mother on 11 January 2013.[35]

Elton John has ten 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.[36]

In 2010, John was criticised by some Christian groups in the US after describing Jesus as a "compassionate, super-intelligent gay man who understood human problems". William Anthony Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights and opponent of gay marriage, responded: "To call Jesus a homosexual is to label him a sexual deviant. But what else would we expect from a man who previously said, 'From my point of view, I would ban religion completely.'"[37]

In 2008, John stated he preferred civil partnerships over marriage for gay people.[38] But by 2012 John had changed his position and become a staunch supporter of same-sex marriage in the United Kingdom. He was quoted: "There is a world of difference between calling someone your 'partner' and calling them your 'husband'. 'Partner' is a word that should be preserved for people you play tennis with, or work alongside in business. It doesn't come close to describing the love that I have for David, and he for me. In contrast, 'husband' does."[39] In 2014, he addressed the religious perspective on sexuality, claiming Jesus would have been in favour of homosexual marriage.[40]

In 2013, Elton John resisted calls to boycott Russia in protest at the country's anti-gay legislation, but told fans at a Moscow concert that the Russian laws were "inhumane and isolating" and he was "deeply saddened and shocked over the current legislation."[41] In a January 2014 interview, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke of Elton John in an attempt to show that there was no gay discrimination in Russia, stating; "Elton John – he's an extraordinary person, a distinguished musician, and millions of our people sincerely love him, regardless of his sexual orientation."[42] Elton responded by offering to introduce the President to Russians abused under Russian legislation banning "homosexual propaganda".[42]


By 1975, the pressures of stardom had begun to take a serious toll on him. During "Elton Week" in Los Angeles that year, he suffered a drug overdose.[43] He also battled the eating disorder bulimia. In a CNN interview with Larry King in 2002, King asked if John knew of Diana, Princess of Wales' eating disorder. John replied, "Yes, I did. We were both bulimic."[44]

A longtime tennis enthusiast, he wrote the song "Philadelphia Freedom" in tribute to long-time friend Billie Jean King and her World Team Tennis franchise of the same name. John and King also co-host an annual pro-am event to benefit AIDS charities, most notably Elton John's own Elton John AIDS Foundation, for which King is a chairwoman. John, who maintains a part-time residence in Atlanta, Georgia, became a fan of the Atlanta Braves baseball team when he moved there in 1991.[45] In 2015, he was named one of GQ's 50 best dressed British men.[46]

AIDS Foundation

Main article: Elton John AIDS Foundation

John has said that he took risks with unprotected sex during the 1980s and considers himself lucky to have avoided the AIDS epidemic.[47] In 1986 he joined with Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight and Stevie Wonder to record the single "That's What Friends Are For", with all profits being donated to the American Foundation for AIDS Research. The song won John and the others the Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. In April 1990, John performed his 1968 ballad "Skyline Pigeon" at the funeral of Ryan White, a teenage haemophiliac he had befriended.[48]

John became more closely associated with AIDS charities following the deaths of his friends Ryan White and Freddie Mercury, raising large amounts of money and using his public profile to raise awareness of the disease. He founded the Elton John AIDS Foundation in 1992 as a charity to fund programmes for HIV/AIDS prevention, for the elimination of prejudice and discrimination against HIV/AIDS-affected individuals, and for providing services to people living with or at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. This cause continues to be one of his personal passions. In 1993 he began hosting his annual Academy Award Party, which has become one of the highest-profile Oscar parties in the Hollywood film industry, and has raised over $200 million.[14] In early 2006, John donated the smaller of two bright-red Yamaha pianos from his Las Vegas, Nevada show to auction on eBay to raise public awareness and funds for the foundation.

To raise money for his AIDS charity, he annually hosts a glamorous White Tie & Tiara Ball In the grounds of his home in Old Windsor, Berkshire to which many famous celebrities are invited.[49] On 28 June 2007, the 9th annual White Tie & Tiara Ball took place. The menu consisted of a truffle soufflé followed by Surf and Turf (filet mignon with Maine lobster tail) and a giant Knickerbocker glory ice cream. An auction followed the dinner held by Stephen Fry. A Rolls Royce 'Phantom' drophead coupe and a piece of Tracey Emin's artwork both raised £800,000 for the charity fund, with the total amount raised reaching £3.5 million.[50] Later, John sang "Delilah" with Tom Jones and "Big Spender" with Shirley Bassey.[51] The 2011 guests included Sarah, Duchess of York, Elizabeth Hurley and George Michael (who performed "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" in a duet with John), and the auction raised £5 million, adding to the £45 million the Balls have raised for the Elton John Aids Foundation.[49]

Official Account


  1. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named whoswho
  2. Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. Artist Biography [Elton John]. Retrieved on 31 March 2014.
  3. Gundersen, Edna. "Elton still standing for gay rights, home, Tammy Faye", USA Today, 23 September 2013. 
  4. Gundersen, Edna. "Russian Imam against Elton John Concert", Hollywood Reporter, 3 October 2013. 
  5. RIAA News Room – The American Recording Industry Announces its Artists of the Century – Nov 10, 1999. Recording Industry Association of America website. RIAA (10 November 1999). Retrieved on 8 February 2010. “'Candle in the Wind 1997' soon surpassed Bing Crosby's 'White Christmas' to become the best-selling single of all time.” (certified sales)
  6. Elton John: Biography - Rolling Stone Music. Rolling Stone. Retrieved on 27 September 2014.
  7. Guinness Book of Records 2009 states that "Candle in the Wind 1997" is the "best-selling single since charts began". John's 1997 song has sold the most copies when looking at copies sold since charts began, as verified in Guinness World Records. ISBN 1-904994-37-7.  See also: Guinness Book of Records, 2009 Edition, pages 14, 15 & 169 [1]
  8. The Immortals: The First Fifty. Rolling Stone Issue 946.
  9. "Billboard Hot 100 Chart 50th Anniversary", Billboard. 
  10. Fellows – The British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors. Retrieved on 27 September 2014.
  11. Elton John: inducted in 1994 | The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. (25 March 1947). Retrieved on 6 August 2010.
  12. About: All About Elton: Bio. Elton John. Retrieved on 6 August 2010.
  13. Elton John AIDS Foundation.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Elton John on his idol, Leon Russell. Reuters.
  15. [2]
  16. Elton John Rock's Captain Fantastic. (7 July 1975). Retrieved on 27 September 2014.
  17. [3]
  18. 55 Pinner Hill Road – On This Very Spot. On This Very Spot (25 March 1947). Retrieved on 25 February 2009.
  19. Barratt, Nick. "Family detective: Elton John", The Daily Telegraph, 24 November 2006. Retrieved on 25 February 2009. 
  20. 111 Potter Street – On This Very Spot. On This Very Spot (15 July 2007). Retrieved on 25 February 2009.
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 Norman, Philip (1991). Elton John. Fireside. ISBN 0671797298. 
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 22.4 22.5 22.6 22.7 22.8 22.9 His Song: The Musical Journey of Elton John, Elizabeth Rosenthal, Billboard Books, 2001
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 Goodall, Nigel (1993). Elton John: The Visual Documentary. Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-3078-3. 
  24. Frome Court – On This Very Spot. On This Very Spot (3 April 2007).
  25. 25.0 25.1 Jahr, Cliff (7 October 1976). Elton John: It's Lonely at the Top. Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 24 July 2007. Retrieved on 25 February 2009.
  26. 26.0 26.1 Paul Myers (6 September 2007). It Ain't Easy: Long John Baldry and the Birth of the British Blues, page 133. Greystone Books, 2007, ISBN 1-55365-200-2. ISBN 978-1-55365-200-7. Retrieved on 2 February 2010. 
  27. Mary Rhiel, David Bruce Suchoff, (1996) The seductions of biography. Routledge, 23. ISBN 978-0-415-91090-3. Retrieved on 2 February 2010. 
  28. John, Elton. "The historic fight for equality must go on. Let's get on and legalise same-sex marriage", The Independent, 8 October 2012. 
  29. Sir Elton John and David Furnish marry. BBC (21 December 2014). Retrieved on 21 December 2014.
  30. 'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!' Elton John and David Furnish tie the knot on ninth anniversary of their civil partnership. Daily Mail (21 December 2014). Retrieved on 21 December 2014.
  31. Sir Elton John's wedding: 11 things you might have missed. Telegraph.
  32. Elton John, David Furnish get married. CNN.
  33. "Sir Elton John and David Furnish Welcome a New Baby!", US Weekly, 27 December 2010. Retrieved on 27 December 2010. 
  34. Levy, Glen Welcome, Tiny Dancer: Elton John Becomes a Dad Time (magazine). Retrieved 28 December 2010
  35. "'You find new depths of love and experience pure joy': Sir Elton John and David Furnish proudly show off new baby son Elijah", Daily Mail, 27 January 2013. Retrieved on 3 March 2014. 
  36. Holly George-Warren The Rolling stone encyclopedia of rock & roll p.501. Fireside, 2001
  37. Gabbatt, Adam. "Sir Elton John claims Jesus was gay", The Guardian, 19 February 2010. Retrieved on 8 March 2015. 
  38. Ocamb, Karen. "Sir Elton John and David Furnish Get Married, #ShareTheLove", Frontiers Media, 22 December 2014. Retrieved on 8 March 2015. 
  39. John, Elton. "Elton John: The historic fight for equality must go on. Let's get on and legalise same-sex marriage", The Independent, 8 October 2012. Retrieved on 29 August 2013. 
  40. Stanley, Tim. "Elton John says Jesus would've backed gay marriage. Millions will presume he's right", The Telegraph Online, 30 June 2014. Retrieved on 4 July 2014. 
  41. Michaels, Sean. "Elton John voices gay rights concerns at Moscow concert", The Guardian, 9 December 2013. Retrieved on 12 January 2014. 
  42. 42.0 42.1 "Elton John to Putin: I will show you gay people victimised under Russian law". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 13 December 2014
  43. "Elton John", Biography Channel, 2005
  44. "Larry King Live: Interview With Elton John Aired 25 January 2002", CNN, 25 January 2002. 
  45. "Elton John goes to bat with Braves", Major League Baseball. Retrieved on 31 January 2010. 
  46. "50 Best Dressed Men in Britain 2015", GQ, 5 January 2015. 
  47. John, Elton. "Elton John: Science can stop Aids but to end the plague we need love", The Independent, 24 July 2012. Retrieved on 8 March 2015. 
  48. Claude Bernardin (1995). "Rocket Man: The Encyclopedia of Elton John". p. 191. Greenwood Press,
  49. 49.0 49.1 "Fashion royalty at Elton John's White Tie and Tiara Ball 2011". The Telegraph. Retrieved 15 December 2014
  50. Alexander, Hilary. "White tie and tiara ball", The Daily Telegraph, 1 July 2007. Retrieved on 25 February 2009. Archived from the original on 18 August 2007. 
  51. Chopard and Elton John – The White Tie and Tiara Ball 2007
  • Goodall, Nigel. Elton John: A Visual Documentary, Omnibus Press, 1993. ISBN 0-7119-3078-3/
  • Rosenthal, Elizabeth. His Song: The Musical Journey of Elton John, Billboard Books, 2001. ISBN 0-8230-8892-8/

External links

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