Wednesday, September 15, 2010

FOCUS ON: ELTON JOHN


Elton John is well known for creating timeless, well crafted pop songs, delivering his stirring and passionate vocals but he is also a dramatic and flamboyant personality who has absolutely no problem saying what is exactly on his mind. He is the true definition of a male diva.

Elton John was one piano man that was going to be noticed for more than just his playing. At the height of his fame, he would put on his outrageous eye wear and wear one of his extravagant stage costumes but he really didn't need any of that. All he needed to do was just sit behind his piano and perform any one of his many powerful songs to make an audience stop and pay attention to him..

There is only one Elton John and you will definitely not confuse him anybody else.

He began life as Reginald Dwight, born in 1947 and raised in Pinner, Middlesex in England. Both of his parents were music lovers and they introduced young Reginald to all of the popular artists of the day but it was the rock & roll records that truly made an impression on him.

Reginald began playing the piano at the age of three and he could pick up music by ear. He would play at parties and family gatherings but he would not begin formal lessons until he was seven. Later at eleven, he won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music. While he enjoyed playing classical music and singing in the choir, he was not challenged by his classes. At fifteen, he got a job as a piano player at a local pub on the weekends.

In 1964, he formed a band called, Bluesology and they would back-up touring American soul artists like, Doris Troy, Patti LaBelle and the Bluebells and the Isley Brothers. After unsuccessfully auditioning for lead vocalist for other bands, Reginald answered an ad placed by Ray Williams, an A&R manager for Liberty Records looking for a musician. During the meeting, he gave Reginald a stack of lyrics written by Bernie Taupin, who had also answered the ad. Reginald wrote music to those lyrics and sent them to Taupin and a musical partnership was formed, which has remained to this day.

Six months later, the two finally met and recorded their first song collaboration, "Scarecrow" in 1967. It was at this time that Reginald became "Elton John", which was the combination of the names of Bluesology sax player, Elton Dean and musician, Long John Baldry.

 In 1969, Elton John released his debut album, "Empty Sky" in the UK but it was not released in the United States until 1975, well after he had already established fame internationally.

His next album,"Elton John" was released in 1970 and the first in the U.S. It produced his first big hit single, "Your Song" which went to number four on the pop charts. The album would later be nominated for a Grammy for "Album of The Year"

This was the beginning of a long string of hits where he has amassed fifty-six top forty U.S. singles, seven consecutive number one albums and has sold thirty-seven million copies of his tribute song to the late Princess Diana, "Candle In The Wind (1997)" which is the world's best selling single of all time. Elton John has also sold a total of over two hundred and fifty million records worldwide.

The price of fame did take it's toll on Elton John where he suffered from depression, bulimia and battled addictions to alcohol and cocaine but he managed to overcome them all.

In 1976, Elton John revealed that he was bisexual in Rolling Stone magazine. He married Renate Baluel, a close friend and his sound engineer in 1984 and the marriage lasted for four years. He met David Furnish, a Canadian advertising executive in 1993 and they have been together ever since. The couple were joined together in a civil union in 2005.

Elton John has been involved in many charities and he started his own, The Elton John AIDS Foundation in 1992 which brings awareness to the disease and assists individuals with HIV/AIDS related illnesses. He also participated on the 1985 hit song, "That's What Friends Are For" with Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight and Stevie Wonder, which part of the proceeds went to AIDS research.

Sir Elton John was knighted in 1998, entered in to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1994, was the 2004 recipient of a Kennedy Center Honor, and has won five Grammy awards, a Tony award for the musical he wrote the score with Tim Rice, "Aida" and an Academy award for "Best Original Song" for the animated film, "The Lion King" in 2000.

It is quite clear that Elton John has had a long and rich career but it's far from over. He has an upcoming album called "The Union" where he is teaming up with legendary artist, Leon Russell.

I loved this music video for "I'm Still Standing". I remember when I first saw it thinking (and before he came out officially as gay), "Boy, he really is into his male dancers." plus there is a great shot of him wearing a collection of some of his crazy eyewear.

NUMBER ONE FLASHBACK

I can't believe it but it's been forty years since " Best of My Love " by The Emotions landed at number one on the pop...