Elton John

On this date in 1947, Elton John (né Reginald Kenneth Dwight) was born in Pinner, England. By age 4 was playing piano and reportedly could play any melody he heard. He dropped out of the Royal Academy of Music in London in 1961 to form his first band, Bluesology, which performed Ray Charles and Jim Reeves ballads, among others. He acquired his stage name from two of the musicians in Bluesology, Long John Baldry and Elton Dean.

After leaving Bluesology in 1966, he met Bernie Taupin, a lyricist with whom he would form a lifelong musical partnership. According to John’s website, Taupin could write lyrics in less than an hour and John would compose the music in half an hour. They have collaborated on more than 30 albums. John has sold more than 300 million records, making him one of the world’s best-selling artists.

His first major hit, “Your Song,” made the U.S. Top Ten charts in 1970. He went on to have other major hits, including “Rocket Man” (1972) and “Honky Cat” (1972). He created Rocket Records in 1974, the label under which he released the hits “Daniel” and “Crocodile Rock.” In that same year he collaborated with his friend John Lennon at Lennon’s final public concert in Madison Square Garden. Deemed the most successful pop artist of the 1970s, he often released at least two albums a year.

The singer battled bulimia and drug and alcohol addictions in the 1970s and 1980s. Just as his popularity waned, his band experienced a comeback at a free concert they hosted in Central Park. He produced chart-toppers in the 1980s such as “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues” (1983) and “I’m Still Standing” (1983). He experienced a health scare in the late 1980s with potentially cancerous nodules affecting his vocal cords. This brush with illness helped convince him to take care of his health, fight off his addictions and become a generous philanthropist. In 1993 he formed the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

His domestic relationship with David Furnish, a former advertising executive and current filmmaker, started in 1993. They were married in 2014 and have two sons, Zachary and Elijah, born to a surrogate mother. 

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, wrote songs for “The Lion King” and won an Academy Award for the “Lion King” song “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.” He won Tony Awards for his work on the theatrical productions of “The Lion King” (1998) and “Aida” (2000). His single, “Candle in the Wind,” honoring the tragic death of his friend Princess Diana, broke all records, and he donated proceeds to Diana’s favorite charities.

As an “out” gay, he rejects organized religion largely because “religion has always tried to turn hatred toward gay people. Religion promotes the hatred and spite against gays.” (Observer Monthly magazine, November 2006.) He was knighted in 1998 by Queen Elizabeth II for his contributions to music and fundraising for AIDS. 

Freedom From Religion Foundation