Elton John is among the most successful acts of the rock era. In terms of popularity, he is in a class with Elvis Presley and the Beatles. Moreover, his longevity as an active recording artist surpasses that of either of them. As of 1992, he broke Presley's old record for the most consecutive years of Top 40 hits on Billboard's singles chart, having been a continual presence in every year since the late-1970 entry of "Your Song." No one can boast a longer uninterrupted ride at the top. A multifaceted talent, John excels as both a ballad-oriented singer/songwriter and a flamboyant rock and roll star. He is also a first-rate musician who elevated the role of piano in a medium theretofore dominated by guitars.
John emerged from the obscurity of a British song publisher's office in a meteoric rise to superstardom during the Seventies. Toting a wardrobe of outrageous costumes and glasses, he was the consummate live entertainer, providing a splashy, larger-than-life visual spectacle to complement his music. He helped usher rock into the arenas during the decade when that conquest became unequivocal. John and longtime lyricist and partner Bernie Taupin identified and shape the mood of the Seventies from its inception.
Reginald Kenneth Dwight was born on March 25, 1947, in Pinner, a suburb of London. He displayed early promise on the piano and was awarded a scholarship to the prestigious Royal Academy of Music, where he enrolled in a program for musically gifted children. Though tutored in the classics, his heart belonged to rock and roll, especially Ray Charles, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis. Early on, he joined a band called Bluesology, a blue-eyed soul group whose members included singer Long John Baldry and sax player Elton Dean. (The combination of their first names provided Reg Dwight with the stage name "Elton John.") John met lyricist Bernie Taupin when both answered an ad soliciting songwriters that had been placed by Liberty Records in the British music paper New Musical Express. Thus began a prolific partnership that endures to this day.
If John's earliest albums - Empty Sky, Elton John and Tumbleweed Connection - established him as a solid arrival on the rock scene, his concert performances sent his career into orbit. The Elton John Band - the Seventies core of which included guitarist Davey Johnstone, bassist Dee Murray and drummer Nigel Olsson - was an onstage powerhouse. John's flamboyant stage wardrobe included ostrich feathers, $5,000 spectacles that spelled his name in lights, a Statue of Liberty costume and more. He'd take the stage attired as Donald Duck or Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In the game of sartorial one-upmanship during the over-the-top Seventies, Elton John was without peer.
All the while, he steadily amassed a formidable catalog of recordings, casting out classics such as Honky Chateau and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road at a daunting clip. During 1971 alone, four new Elton John albums made their appearance on Billboard's album chart: Tumbleweed Connection, the soundtrack to Friends, the live album 11-17-70, and Madman Across the Water. In 1973, John launched his own custom label, Rocket Records. In 1974, he became director of a professional soccer team, the Watford Football Club. On Thanksgiving Day of that year, he coaxed a reclusive John Lennon onstage for three songs during a Madison Square Garden concert that turned out to be Lennon's final public performance. The charmed year of 1975 began with a first volume of Greatest Hits lodged at Number One and later on saw two albums of new material - Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy and Rock of the Westies - enter the album chart at #1, a previously unprecedented feat.
John's exhausting pace tapered off as the Seventies wound down. John and Taupin took a two-year hiatus from each other, during which time they worked with other writers. They resumed their partnership by cowriting several songs on 21 at 33 (1981); 1983's Too Low for Zero was their first fully collaborative album of the decade. The Eighties found John working less furiously, though no less successfully, charting almost exactly as many Top 40 singles during that decade as he had in the previous one. Among them was "Sacrifice," taken from 1990's Sleeping With the Past., which became John's first-ever Number One hit in his British homeland.
Elton John has remained no less active or viable in the Nineties, adding a tireless devotion to AIDS-related issues to his resume. Among other things, he's established the Elton John AIDS foundation to provide funds for services to people living with HIV/AIDS and for educational programs targeting AIDS prevention. Meanwhile, oblivious to trends or the passage of time, John continues his hitmaking ways. He scored a #1 single in 1992 with a live remake of "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" (a duet with George Michael) and reached #4 in 1994 with "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," from the soundtrack to the Disney film The Lion King.