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The Life of Elton John

Elton John's career has taken him from humble beginnings to the pinnacle of musical success.

Born Reginald Kenneth Dwight to a father less than delighted with his son's choice of direction in life, Elton changed not only in name, but stature as well - netting numerous awards and accolades usually reserved only for a fortunate few.

One of a small group of artists to be Knighted by the Queen of England and inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, John is a true star at an international level. His life and career were not devoid of hardships, but his music and compositions have held up against time as classics.

Elton's Early Career

Near the start of Elton John's early career, he labored as a studio composer and vocalist, but his entry into the world of music began as early as his school years.

Though Elton flunked out at the age of 17, his musical abilities had actually given him an opportunity to excel academically. He was awarded a scholarship to the prestigious Royal Academy of Music in London at a young age and attended classes there on weekends.

Once he'd left school for good, he devoted much of his time to performing with a band called "Bluesology." He greatly enjoyed the time he spent amongst them and decided to change his name to reflect what the band had meant to him - choosing two of his bandmates' names as his new stage moniker.

It was around this time that he got into studio work and became a resident artist at a local label. For a period of time, Liberty Records employed him alongside another musician by the name of Bernie Taupin as a songwriter. The two spent a year writing lyrics for Liberty artists before switching to the DJM label. It was the year 1969 that bore witness to Elton's first singing release on his album "Empty Sky." However, it wasn't until the following year that he got his big break as a solo recording artist.


Elton's Rise to Notoriety

1970 would come to be a pivotal year in Elton John's development as an artist. It marks the release of his self-entitled album, on which appeared the charting hits, "Your Song" and "Border Song."

This first album had been released in both the U.S. as well as the U.K. - landing John on the radar of an international audience right from the start of his career. From here on out, he was off and running with a series of top albums and stellar hits.

Soon, with the help of his own band, Elton was performing his hit songs in the US and abroad.

During this stretch of time, between 1970 and 1980, Elton John went on to release an astonishing 17 albums and many of his biggest hit singles. Songs like "Rocket Man," "Daniel," "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" and "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" came into existence throughout this decade, among many other notable examples. For this reason, the music he produced throughout the 70's is considered the most exemplary of his unique style, sound and genius.


Elton in the 80's

By the time the 80's rolled around, Elton was no longer working with his original band lineup. It is alleged that he was tired and indeed, his output had waned some, with only 1 Elton John album per year being released. He'd seen immense highs, broken records with his chart-topping albums and even had his own star added to the Hollywood walk of fame, but would not stop there. By 1982, he'd dreamt up a fresh new hit song in loving memory of his friend John Lennon entitled "Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)" that rose high on the charts and brought him back into the limelight. "That's What Friends Are For" and "Nikita" would follow later in the decade.

It was during the 80's that John brought to the forefront another young star and friend of his, George Michaels of "Wham!." This wasn't the only star he performed with though, the 80's saw Elton recording and playing with acts as diverse as Saxon, the heavy metal band, and Dionne Warwick. His collaboration song with Stevie Wonder, "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues," went on to be a major hit as did "I'm Still Standing."

Elton wasn't without hardships in the 80's though. He unexpectedly lost his voice while on tour in '86 - warranting a critical throat surgery that permanently altered his vocal chords. On top of this, the following year, he was accused by publication "The Sun" of having rented young boys for sexual purposes. He later won a libel case against the Sun over these allegations. Despite such troubles, John pushed through into the 90's with more hits up his sleeve and triumphs to enjoy.


Elton's Evolution

After 2 entire decades' worth of hits, performances and accolades, Elton had little need to continue producing great music, but he did so anyway.

Cue the creation of songs such as "Sacrifice" and "Runaway Train," his duet with Eric Clapton. He didn't stop at producing mere singles and albums though, John then branched out to film and musicals - producing the phenomenally successful score for the animated Disney classic "the Lion King." His Lion King single "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" won him an Academy Award and a Grammy.

1994 marks the year in which Elton John was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by none other than Axl Rose of Guns n' Roses. Unfortunately, Elton lost two good friends just 3 years later, one of whom was Princess Diana.

He performed a revised version of his song "Candle in the Wind" at her funeral service in Westminster Abbey which he vowed to never perform again. The iconic song rose to legendary status - setting the record for sales of a single and being the only track to ever be certified Diamond in the United States.

John continued accruing accolades all around with his work on the musical "Aida" and its accompanying album as well as being Knighted by the Queen of England in 1998 for his charitable work. It was also during this decade that Elton and David Furnish began their relationship. They would later go on to marry in 2014 when gay marriage was made legal.


Elton John's Ongoing Success

The singer took to musicals yet again with compositions for "Billy Elliot the Musical" in 2005 which went on to massive success as the 11th longest-running West End musical of all time. John tried his hand at theater alongside his fellow writer Taupin, but their rendition of Anne Rice's vampire novels went over poorly with critics.

Elton shocked many with his contribution to Tupac Shakur's posthumous release, "Ghetto Gospel" in 2005 and continued to sell out huge venues like Madison Square Garden with his public performances. A few years later, in 2009, he shocked many yet again by contributing to an Alice in Chains song entitled "Black Gives Way to Blue." His alt rock contributions far from over, he's sung and played with Queens of the Stone Age as recently as 2013 on their track "Fairweather Friends."


Still performing and even appearing in film (Kingsman, the Golden Circle), the 70 year old musician is admirably active with plans for the future.

His enduring success as a performer and musician has been no accident, but the direct result of his boundless dedication to the arts. Coupled with his commitment to funding AIDS research and generous charity to struggling communities, his impact on the world is not likely to be forgotten for quite some time.