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Elton John

Elton John

Sir Elton John is an English singer-songwriter, composer, pianist, record producer, and occasional actor. He has worked with lyricist Bernie Taupin as his songwriting partner since 1967; they have collaborated on more than 30 albums to date.

Elton was born on March 25, 1947, in Pinner, Middlesex, England, and given the name Reginald Kenneth Dwight. At the age of three he astonished his family by sitting at the piano and playing The Skater's Waltz by ear. At the age of 11 he was awarded a scholarship as a Junior Exhibitor at the Royal Academy of Music and he attended the Academy on Saturday mornings for the next four years.

Elton's live performances began in 1962 when he played weekend pub piano at The Northwood Hills Hotel and went on to join his first band, The Corvettes. A year later members of this band reformed as Bluesology. Between 1965 and 1967, Elton played keyboard with Bluesology as they gigged throughout the UK, often backing visiting American artists. Elton's stage name, which became his legal name in 1967, was taken from the Bluesology saxophonist Elton Dean, and their lead singer, Long John Baldry.

Writer Bernie Taupin was born in Lincolnshire, UK, on May 22, 1950. In 1967, both Bernie and Elton answered a 'Talent Wanted' advert that was placed in the New Musical Express by Liberty Records. Ray Williams at Liberty Records put Elton in touch with Bernie, and they started to write songs together, initially corresponding by mail. They have maintained this method of songwriting throughout their career, and have still never written a song together in the same room. Most unusually, Bernie writes the lyrics first and Elton then composes the music.

In 1968, they became staff songwriters for Dick James' DJM label. From the start Elton and Bernie were prolific songwriters, writing for other artists as well as creating and recording songs for Elton.

Elton's touring career in Great Britain began in 1970 when he played clubs such as The Revolution, The Roundhouse, The Marquee and The Speakeasy in London, as well as Mothers in Birmingham and The Twisted Wheel in Manchester. On August 25, 1970, he played his debut concert in America, appearing at The Troubadour in Los Angeles, CA, with his band, which included Nigel Olsson on drums and Dee Murray on bass. The gig received ecstatic reviews and Elton became, literally, an overnight sensation. Since that day he has toured constantly all over North America and throughout the rest of the world.

In 1970, Elton's self-titled breakthrough album introduced him to an international stage, and in the period between 1970 and 1976, with producer Gus Dudgeon at the helm, Elton recorded an astonishing fourteen albums including 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road'. With its string of hit singles ('Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting', 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road', 'Bennie And The Jets' and 'Candle In The Wind'), and an unbroken two-month run at the top of the Billboard Top 100, it became and remains an all-time classic.

In 1974, Elton performed on John Lennon's comeback single 'Whatever Gets You Thru The Night', and later that year was joined by Lennon onstage at New York's Madison Square Garden. This performance, always cited by Elton as one of the most memorable of his entire career, was to be John Lennon's final concert.

Elton's 1977 sessions with Philly Soul producer Thom Bell gave him a No.1 UK hit in 2003 with 'Are You Ready For Love', when it was re-released due to demand from influential British DJs. In the 1980s he had hits with the albums 21 At 33, 'Jump Up!' (which included the smash single 'Blue Eyes' and the much-loved Lennon tribute 'Empty Garden'), and 'Too Low For Zero', the home of two of Elton's live favourites, 'I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues' and 'I'm Still Standing'.

In 1992 in the US, and in 1993 in the UK, Elton established the Elton John AIDS Foundation, his pioneering charity dedicated to breakthrough work on behalf of those around the world suffering from HIV and related illnesses. Together, the two organisations have raised more than $275 million in support of worthy projects in 55 countries around the world.

Only one artist can have the biggest selling single of all time, and since 1997 Elton has held that record. 'Candle in the Wind 1997', Elton and Bernie's heartfelt tribute to the late Diana, Princess of Wales, has sold over 33,000,000 copies, and raised millions for the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund. In 1998, Elton received a knighthood from the Queen for 'services to music and charitable services' and became Sir Elton Hercules John, CBE.

This millennium has seen Elton at the top of his game, continuing to play frequent, sell-out concerts all over the world. In 2004, Elton and the band began a residency with The Red Piano show at the Caesars Palace Colosseum in Las Vegas. Originally booked for 75 shows over three years, The Red Piano exceeded all expectations and proved so popular with audiences that Elton completed the original commitment in only 18 months, and the run was extended by an additional 166 shows to a final engagement total of 241, ending in April 2009.

Five decades since the 1969 release of his first album, 'Empty Sky', Elton John continues to create superb music. The 2001 album 'Songs From The West Coast' gave him another smash hit single with 'I Want Love', as well as the fan favourite, 'Original Sin'. In 2005, following the release of the deluxe edition of 'Peachtree Road', which included three new songs from 'Billy Elliot The Musical', Elton achieved another hit single with the Billy Elliot song 'Electricity'. The following year fans were delighted when Elton and Bernie at last wrote a sequel to 'Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy', the much-loved 'The Captain And The Kid'.

Besides his knighthood, Elton's landmark awards include Best British Male Artist BRIT Award, Songwriters Hall of Fame (with Bernie Taupin), Officer of Arts & Letters (France), induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Polar Music Prize, MusiCares Person of the Year, Kennedy Center Honor, Billboard Magazine Legend of Live Award, Songwriters Hall of Fame Johnny Mercer Award (with Bernie Taupin),  BRITs Icon Award, Rockefeller Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award and the Harvard School of Public Health AIDS Initiative Leadership Award. In 2002, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Royal Academy of Music and in 2004 he became a Fellow of the British Academy of Songwriters and Composers.

Elton has won 12 Ivor Novello Awards between 1973 and 2000, been nominated for a Grammy Award 11 times (winning in 1986, 1991, 1994, 1997 and 2000), and received the Grammy Legend Award in 2001. Three of his albums have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, including his 1970 eponymous album. Elton has 3 Oscar Award nominations (winning in 1995), and a Tony Award (with 4 nominations) for Best Original Score for Elton John and Tim Rice's 'Aida' in 2000.