The singer, songwriter, composer and pianist has had seven number one chart hits in the UK and nine in the US Billboard Hot 100.
During a long career that has spanned almost 60 years so far, he has released 129 singles and 41 albums, including studio albums and famous film soundtracks, such as The Lion King, Billy Elliot and Rocketman.
Awarded the CBE in 1995, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1998 and appointed a Member of the Order of the Companions of Honour in the 2020 New Year’s Honours list for his services to music and charity.
He founded the Elton John AIDS Foundation in 1992 to which he has personally donated more than £153 million – the proceeds of his annual high-profile Academy Awards Party. The charity aims to raise public awareness of HIV/AIDS, while raising funds to help people with the condition.
Launch of an icon
Born Reginald Dwight, he was raised in a council house in Pinner. He went on to become a singing superstar after dropping out of school at 17, before sitting his A-levels, because he wanted a career in music.
His interest in music was sparked when his grandmother bought him a piano as a child. He learned how to play by ear and in 1962, at age 15, he had his first gig as a pianist at a local pub. He formed a band called Bluesology with his friends.
After he answered an advert for new artists, placed by Liberty Records in the New Musical Express, his career took off in earnest in 1967. At his audition, he was given some lyrics written by Bernie Taupin, who had responded to the same advert. Sir Elton wrote music to go with the lyrics and Taupin liked what he heard. This was the start of their professional relationship as a long-standing song writing team, which has continued for 53 years to date.
In his personal life, Elton John met David Furnish in 1993 and they have been in a committed relationship ever since. Now aged 72 and 57 respectively, they entered into a civil partnership in 2005 and wed nine years later in 2014, as soon as same-sex marriages became legal in England. They have two sons, born through surrogacy.
Due to his relationship and his desire to spend more time with his family, Sir Elton has decided to step down from live shows, after almost five decades of touring the world. Two years ago, as he embarked on his three-year Farewell: Yellow Brick Road world tour, he announced it would be his last.
Toronto-born Furnish is a film-maker, director and producer, who met Sir Elton at his house in Windsor. Furnish was brought to the gathering by a mutual friend and was described as “well-dressed” and “shy” by the singer.
There was a mutual attraction and the following night, they had dinner together, marking the start of their enduring romance. Sir Elton finally popped the question in May 2005 – 12 years after they first met. Their civil partnership ceremony took place on 21st December 2005.
They spend much of their time working for the AIDS Foundation, hosting an annual black-tie event to raise extra funds for the charity. In 2014, they received the Human Rights Campaign Equality Award.
Joys of fatherhood
In an interview, Sir Elton said their love had grown “stronger and stronger” over the years. Speaking of marriage, he added, “You have to work at it.”
Their children, Zachary and Elijah, were born on 25th December 2010 and 11th January 2013 respectively. Sir Elton said the boys came into their life “at a late time”. He admitted he had “never experienced anything like” being a parent, adding it was “no contest” that he’d rather be with his children than playing music shows. “These children have come along at a time I never thought I’d have children,” he added, describing them as “the greatest thing in our lives”.
The couple are determined to give the boys as normal a life as they can, making them earn money and learn the importance of hard work. Furnish said their life was spent doing things such as sitting around the table drinking coffee, reading the newspapers, watching TV and playing with the kids and dogs. Having said this, Zachary and Elijah have already travelled around the world staying in top hotels and spending time with their godmother – pop superstar Lady Gaga.
As the children reached school age, Sir Elton said he and Furnish had realised it was time to settle down. He no longer wished to be travelling around away from his children. “They need me and I need them more than the tour,” he explained.
Sir Elton’s net worth was estimated to be £350 million as of February 2020. His farewell tour will see him perform a total of more than 300 gigs in five different continents.
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