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Sir Elton John : Madman Across the Water

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If you're made in England, you're built to last
You can still say 'homo' and everybody laughs
But the joke's on you, you never read the song
They all think they know but they all got it wrong.

Elton John was born on March 25, 1947 as Reginald Kenneth Dwight, a product of a broken home. The international icon began playing the piano at the age of four and won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music when he turned eleven. After six years in the academy, John decided to drop out of school and pursue a career in the music industry.

Dwights career, which has lasted for nearly four decades, began in 1961 when he formed his first band, Bluesology. The group turned professional in 1965 when they started touring with American artists. However, Reginald Dwight left Bluesology in 1966 because of creative frictions with bandleader, Long John Baldry. Dwight sought for more control in the music he was creating, so he had opted to try out as a lead vocalist for the groups King Crimson and Gentle Giant while also doing some session work on his own.

During this time of uncertainty, Dwight came upon song lyrics written by Bernie Taupin, a then-unknown young composer who was searching for harmonies to complete his compositions. At first, Taupin and Dwight corresponded through mail, each one contributing his own poetic musicality. It was during this time that Reginald Dwight took on the name, Elton John - a name he has retained to this day, a name that has become well-loved and highly-respected in the music industry - from his former band mates, Elton Dean and John Baldry. In 1967, the luminary moniker of John and Taupin would first appear in the song Scarecrow.

Dick James hired the duo as staff songwriters at his DJM in 1968 and for the next year and a half, they would be writing music for pop singers like Lulu and Roger Cook. It was said that it took Taupin an hour to write the lyrics and it took even less for John to compose the music.

Elton John was writing for other artists. However, during this time, he also decided to record tracks to launch his own solo career. By 1969, John had his first album. The said album contained the ballad, Your Song, which, aside from becoming many a couples theme song, also climbed both American and English record charts.

Offstage, John was rather reserved and introverted. Conversely, onstage, John was outlandish, embracing an atypical presentation coupled with brightly colored feather boas and a collection of his signature glasses. John was his own man who was determined to make it in the industry in his own terms.

John and Taupin had sixteen Top 20 hits from 1972 to 1976. However, in 1976, John was exhausted from his stressful schedule of recording and touring. 1976 was an awkward chapter in Elton Johns life. It was at this time that he openly revealed his bisexuality as well as his insecurities with his physicality in Rolling Stone. Johns personal life was in turmoil.

The difficulties in Johns life greatly affected his working relationship with Taupin and a year after the article on John was published, Taupin broke off his highly successful team-up with John. Nevertheless, the two eventually reunited in 1980, stringing along even more hits. However, despite the duos apparent success, John continued to deal with his personal demons. Johns addiction to cocaine and alcohol, which began in the mid-70s, became more serious in the 1980s.

John was known to shock his audience with his outrageous performances. However, he managed to surprise his fans all the more when he married Renate Blauel in 1984. The marriage lasted for four years. John admitted that he had known he was a homosexual long before he said, I do.

John proved that through sheer, unwavering determination and love for his craft, his homosexuality did not become a deterrent to his eventual success. His revelation was a risk, a possible rejection from his audience. However what had happened was just the opposite. It was his openness, from his confession of his bisexuality in the 1970s to his admission of his homosexuality in the 1980s, which inspired his followers. It was his honesty that prompted support from both the gay community and the music industry as a whole.

After his divorce with Blauel, John entered rehab, attempting to kick his drug habit. Later on in the 1990s, Elton John would make public his longtime relationship with David Furnish, a former advertising executive, who would eventually shoot a film in 1996 about Johns life. The said movie was entitled Tantrums and Tiaras.

Elton John developed a close relationship with AIDS victim, Ryan White, in the mid-80s. White was a hemophiliac and had contracted the said disease through a blood transfusion. In 1985, the teenager was forbidden to return to his Indiana middle school. John befriended Ryan White and provided financial and emotional support to the grief-stricken White family. And when Ryan White died in 1990, John sang Candle in the Wind, a song he had created with Taupin in honor of the late Marilyn Monroe, for the young man at the Farm Aid concert in Indianapolis and again in his funeral.

Deeply moved by the strength and courage of his young friend, Elton John, along with Phil Donahue, assisted Ryan Whites mother, Jeanne, in the establishment of the Ryan White Foundation for the prevention of AIDS. In 1992, Elton John would also launch the Elton John AIDS Foundation, a non-profit organization that has provided more than $25 million to AIDS causes worldwide. John also pledged to donate all profit from his singles sales to AIDS research. It was also in 1992 wherein John garnered an Academy Award for Best Original Song and a Grammy for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for the song, Can You Feel the Love Tonight?, a triumphant collaboration with lyricist Tim Rice for the Disney movie, The Lion King.

In 1997, Candle in the Wind, Johns elegy to Marilyn Monroe and Ryan White, resurfaced and was re-recorded when his friend, Britains beloved Princess Diana, met her untimely death. The 1997 version of the song entered the British and American charts at number one, spending fourteen weeks at the top spot. All profits acquired from the single went to the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund. The following year, the British monarchy, on the commendation of Prime Minister Tony Blair, bequeathed upon John the title of knight.

Sir Elton Johns unwavering popularity from the 70s all the way to the 2000s can be attributed to the genuineness by which he lived his life and in turn, by the passion infused in his music. His existence echoed his art - eccentric, incomparable, and oftentimes, surreal. And akin to his life, John took full control of his music, uncompromisingly directing it wherever he wanted it to go.

Elton John was not at all fearful to reveal his homosexuality. He was proud of who he was, of who he is. However, his career showed that gender preference was not the weight that tipped the balance. What was important was his talent and his bigheartedness, the gifts that he so generously shared with the world.

Michael Jackson may be the King of Pop and Elvis may be the King of Rock and Roll, but Sir Elton John certainly gets the tiara.



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