Born Reginald Dwight in 1947, the iconic entertainer known to the world as Elton John has built an entertainment empire around his ability to develop and define a distinct brand of piano pop.
John will perform at 8 p.m. March 6 at James Brown Arena.
Whether the brash and ambitious glam-informed rockers of his early career or the polished ballads and show tunes that came later, the Elton John discography is loaded with an unprecedented number of hits. But what makes John so interesting, as both a performer and public figure, are the ways he has used both his fame and financial good fortune.
To welcome John back to Augusta – he last performed here in October 1999 – we take a closer look at the man and his music.
IN THE MOVIES
While John has only rarely stepped outside of his musical comfort zone, he has been known, from time to time, to spend some quality time around the film industry. Here are a few of his more successful cinematic forays.
TOMMY – John played Local Lad and belted the hit Pinball Wizard in the film version of The Who rock opera.
BOB THE BUILDER – In 2001, John lent his voice to the animated handyman’s Christmas special, playing a character known simply as ‘John.’
THE COUNTRY BEARS – John had a small cameo, as himself, in this film based on a Disney theme park attraction.
GNOMEO AND JULIET – John stepped into the producer’s chair for this animated movie about feuding garden gnomes. He also wrote the music.
THE ROAD TO EL DORADO – Not only did John write a song for this animated adventure, he also served as the story’s narrator.
It’s no secret that John’s career has proved lucrative. Something of a serial collector, John funneled some of his musically gotten gains into a variety of collections.
PHOTOGRAPHY – John’s collection of photography is considered one of the finest in the world. It is estimated that he has accumulated more than 5,000 images. An exhibition of pieces from the collection was assembled by the High Museum in 2001.
GLASSES – Eyeglasses have always been an important part of the Elton John image and in an interview with the BBC, he admitted that he owns in excess of 20,000 pairs.
CARS – This collection isn’t as large as it once was. In 2001, John auctioned 20 of his 28 luxury automobiles. Cars that he cleared out included Rolls Royces, Jaguars, Bentleys and the odd Ferrari.
ART – John clearly has some well-appointed walls. Artists represented in his collection include Damien Hirst, Andy Warhol, David Hockney, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse.
PLAY IT LIVE
John’s reputation as a dynamic live performer has always been an important aspect of his success. Here are a few notable gigs in a career that has seen him play everywhere from pubs to palaces.
THE TROUBADOUR (1975) – John was at the height of his fame when he returned to the small Hollywood club where he had played his first American date five years before. His Troubadour dates, enjoyed by only a fortunate few hundred, have become the stuff of legend.
CENTRAL PARK (1980) – More than 400,000 fans packed the New York City park to watch John roll through his impressive back catalogue. John’s performing in a Donald Duck costume has become one of the enduring images from this famous outdoor event.
LONDON (1997) – John performed one song – a rewritten version of his own Candle In the Wind – at the funeral of Diana, princess of Wales. Afterward he vowed to never perform the song again.
MADISON SQUARE GARDEN (2007) – John celebrated his 60th birthday by playing an unprecedented 60th date at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Only the New York Knicks know the venue better.
LAS VEGAS (2003-2009) – John contracted to do 75 dates over a period of three years at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. The shows proved so successful that the residency lasted six years and spawned a successful tour.
Although best known as a solo artist, John has, whether performing alone or with his eponymous band, over the years, written and/or performed with a variety of artists.
From fellow piano men Billy Joel and Little Richard to metal merchants Saxon, numerous acts have performed alongside John. Here are a few notables.
STEVIE WONDER AND GLADYS KNIGHT – The song That’s What Friends Are For proved a hit for this trio of legends.
JOHN LENNON – Not only did John collaborate with Lennon on the song Whatever Gets You Through the Night, he also had some success with a cover of Lennon’s Beatle classic Lucy In the Sky with Diamonds.
EMINEM – In 2001 the rapper, who had been under fire for lyrics considered by critics as homophobic, performed his hit Stan with the openly gay John at the Grammy Awards. It was, according to Eminem, the beginning of a true friendship.
LEON RUSSELL – In 2010, John shared an album with Leon Russell. The result was a record that generated unusually strong reviews for both artists.
BERNIE TAUPIN – Probably the most important collaboration of John’s career, his longstanding writing partner provided words and inspiration for many of John’s biggest hits.
An artist as successful and critically acclaimed as John can’t help but gather some exceptional honors.
The most significant include induction to both the Rock and Roll and Songwriters Halls of Fame, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Kennedy Center Honor, an Oscar, five Grammys and both a CBE and Knighthood in his native Britain.
That’s a lot of hardware.
Over the past 20 years, John has become a real force in live theater. Here are some projects he’s been involved with.
• The Lion King (an adaptation of the Disney movie that featured his songs)
• Billy Elliot
• Next Fall (producer)
John has also been linked to a musical adaptation of George Orwell’s Animal Farm.
Although a generous benefactor to a variety of charities dedicated to everything from preservation of classic recordings and recording techniques to gay rights, John’s most significant contributions have been in the field of HIV/AIDS awareness and research. His Elton John AIDS Foundation has, to date, raised more than $150 million.
John has had 25 singles in the Billboard Hot 100 Top Ten. Those with an * reached No. 1.
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Step Into Christmas*
Bennie and the Jets*
Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me
The Bitch is Back
Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds*
Don’t Go Breaking My Heart*
Sorry Seems To Be the Hardest Word
Mama Can’t Buy You Love
I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues
Sad Songs (Say So Much)
Candle In the Wind
I Don’t Want To Go With You Like That
Can You Feel the Love Tonight
He’s had six No. 1 Billboard albums:
Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy
Rock of the Westies