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elton john

Toting a wardrobe of sequinned, silver booted costumes and oversize specs, Elton John became one of the most flamboyant performers of the '70s. He's survived career dips, drug addiction and a variety of public court cases to become one of the most successful acts of the rock era. Elton's hairline may have receded faster than a Pop Idol contestant's career but he is as popular now as he's ever been. Although we haven't mentioned those stuffed animals he wears on his head yet...

The son of an RAF trumpeter, Elton was born Reginald Kenneth Dwight on March 25, 1947 in Pinner in Middlesex. Dwight began playing piano at the age of four, and when he was 11, he won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music. In 1961 he joined a band called Bluesology, taking his name from singer Long John Baldry and sax player Elton Dean. (You see what he did there?) Reg met lyricist Bernie Taupin when both answered an ad for songwriters in the NME. It was the start of a beautiful friendship.

In 1969 our podgy hero released his debut album, Empty Sky which received fair reviews but no sales. So no outrageous spending sprees for Elt just yet. Success would come the following year with the Gus Dudgeon produced single, Your Song, taken from the album, Elton John. It was the singer's first UK hit reaching No. 7 in the charts. Elton had arrived and with Taupin's lyrics he proved a prolific songwriter. During 1971 alone, four new Elton albums were released including the critically acclaimed Tumbleweed Connection and Madman Across The Water. In 1973, John launched his own label, Rocket Records and in 1974, he became director of Watford Football Club beginning a successful working partnership with Watford manager Graham 'Do I not like that' Taylor.

At one stage between 1972 and 1975 Elton had seven consecutive number 1 albums in the US: Honky Chateau (1972), Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player (1973), Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973), Caribou (1974), Greatest Hits (1974), Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (1975) and Rock of the Westies (1975). Success brought enormous wealth coupled with a rather nasty drug habit and several tantrums. "I once phoned my agent telling him to do something about the wind outside my hotel room," recalls a power-mad Elt.
Elton's admission in 1976 that he was gay caused his popularity to dip. "I think people should be free to engage in any sexual practices they choose; they should draw the line at goats though," he quipped. The decline in record sales was also due to exhaustion. He cut his performance and recording schedule to one record a year.

The '80s proved a patchier period for Elton personally and professionally. In 1986, he underwent throat surgery while on tour but even after he successfully recovered, cocaine and alcohol were still around. But Elton's vulnerability over his baldness, weight and sexuality and his frankness about his addictions only seemed to endear him to the public. However after his divorce from his German wife Renate Blauel in 1986, the tabloids started tracking Elton's personal life in more depth. The Sun unveiled a rent boy who Elton had allegedly approached for sex. Elton responded with a lawsuit, proving the allegations to be totally false. Elton donated the 1m in damages to charity. The case seemed to sober up our formerly devil-may-care, ferret wearing, musical hero who turned to charity work. He established the Elton John AIDS foundation in 1992 and announced that he would donate all royalties from his single sales to AIDS research.

In April 1991 the Sunday Times announced that John had entered the list of the top 200 wealthiest people in Britain. The public became fascinated with Elton's spending power during a court case in 2001 against his former accountant and manager John Reid. The court heard how Elton spent nearly 40m in a 20-month period, including 100,000 on flowers. Asked why, Elton replied: "Well, I like flowers." Elton owns a castle in Windsor by the way and homes in South of France, LA and New York and will often buy four copies of a CD for each home. (So that accounts for the sales of that last Mel C single.)

Elton maintains his high profile partly through his celebrity friendships - Come on in for a smoked salmon vol-au-vent and glass of champagne Victoria and David Beckham, George Michael - (with whom he scored a No. 1 in 1990 with a reworking of Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me) - and the newest pop acts like Blue with whom he scored a No.1 in 2003 with a reworking of Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word.

In 1997, his re-recording of Candle In The Wind, in memory of his friend Princess Diana, became the fastest selling single in UK chart history. All proceeds were donated to the Princess of Wales Memorial Fund. In 1998, not unsurprisingly, Elton was knighted.
Elton continues to spend money at a mind boggling rate, throw lavish parties, record (2001's Songs From The West Coast album was hailed as a triumphant return to form) and campaign for Aids charities in equal measure, making him destined for eventual status as Britain's Grand Old Dame of Pop

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