When Lady Gaga met Elton John
The similarities between superstar singers Sir Elton John and Lady Gaga are obvious.
Both are extremely talented singers and songwriters who enjoy global success. They are both renowned for their vibrant live performances and flamboyant taste in fashion.
It’s no surprise that the two have become close friends since meeting for the first time a decade ago when they performed together at the Grammy Awards. Only a year later, in 2011, John and his husband, David Furnish, asked Gaga to become godmother to their son, Zachary. She later became godmother to their second son, Elijah.
According to John, Gaga is a very “hands-on” godmother, who always finds time to hang out with the boys, despite her extremely hectic schedule. People wonder how the close friendship between John, 74, and Gaga, 35, has blossomed.
Lady Gaga’s roots
Born Stefani Germanotta in New York City in March 1986, Gaga began playing the piano at four years old. Her mum, Cynthia, a business exec and philanthropist, wanted her to grow up into a “cultured” young woman. Gaga later described how she felt like a “misfit” at her private all-girls’ school, as fellow pupils found her “eccentric”.
Spotting her musical talents, her parents encouraged her to pursue a music career as a youngster, so she enrolled in Creative Arts Camp. Later attending Regis High School, she got involved in theatre, starring in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and Guys and Dolls. As a teenager, she played at local open mic nights.
She went on to study method acting at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute. Despite winning a minor role in the cult US drama, The Sopranos, in 2001, she started to lean towards music overacting. She said it “came easiest” to her, as she had always been good at playing the piano and she enjoyed it.
Her intuition paid off, as she formed a band, called the SGBand, in 2005 with some friends. They played gigs around New York. Gaga took part in the June 2006 Songwriters’ Hall of Fame New Songwriters’ Showcase, which became the launchpad for her career.
Rise to fame
Wendy Starland, a talent scout, recommended her to music producer Rob Fusari, who helped Gaga to develop her song writing skills and compose new material. They set up a new company, named Team Lovechild LLC, to promote her career.
She signed for Def Jam in September 2006, but her fusion of avant-garde electronic dance music wasn’t a big hit. She changed genre and launched a live show, billed as The Ultimate Pop Burlesque Rockshow. She signed a music publishing deal with Sony and wrote songs for Britney Spears, The Pussycat Dolls, New Kids on the Block and Fergie.
Jimmy Iovine, the CEO and chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M Records, drew up a joint deal by asking Gaga to sign with him. In 2008, she released her debut album, The Fame, on Cherrytree Records, a label under the Interscope umbrella.
It was a global hit, reaching number one in the singles charts in the UK, Canada, Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Ireland, and the top five in the US and Australia. Two singles from the album, Poker Face and Just Dance, reached number one in the US, UK, Australia and Canada.
Poker Face was the best-selling single in the world in 2009, selling 9.8 million copies. It topped Billboard’s Digital Songs chart for a record 83 weeks.
Gaga was invited to be the opening act on the Pussycat Dolls’ 2009 Doll Domination Tour across Oceania and Europe. This led to Gaga headlining her own tour, The Fame Ball, between March and September 2009. Her spectacular rise to world fame led to the invitation to appear live at the prestigious Grammy Awards in 2010.
Elton John the icon
Sir Elton John needs no introductions. With a music industry career spanning nearly 60 years and an estimated net worth of £362 million, he has sold more than 300 million records. One of the best-selling music artists of all time, he has achieved more than fifty Top 40 hits in the US Billboard Hot 100 and UK Singles charts.
Born in Middlesex in 1947, he has had nine number-one single hits in the US and seven in the UK. In the United States, he has also had seven consecutive number one albums.
His moving single, Candle in the Wind 1997, rewritten in tribute to the late Princess Diana, sold more than 33 million copies worldwide, becoming the best-selling chart single in history.
He was invited to join the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame in 1992, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame two years later and the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors. The Queen knighted the iconic star for his charity work and services to music in 1998.
Gaga had reached the peak of her career to date when she was invited to perform live at the 52nd annual Grammys on 31st January 2010. She made her debut at the ceremony performing Poker Face and Speechless in a spectacular show.
It began with a series of fake Lady Gagas taking to the stage, before the real one finally revealed herself, to the tumultuous cheers of the audience. Following a rendition of Poker Face, Gaga “fell” down a pit of fire; only to emerge, covered in ash, seated at a spooky looking piano! Elton John had miraculously appeared opposite, also covered in ash and sitting at a piano, to play as Gaga sang Speechless. Then, they both launched into a duet of John’s single, Your Song.
Labelled “weird and show-stopping”, with Gaga wearing a glittering outfit with huge shoulder pads and John sporting equally sparkling, diamond-encrusted glasses; the critics described it as an “iconic” performance. Gaga’s black piano had several spooky mannequin arms protruding from it, making it look like something from a Salvador Dalí painting!
At the time, John appeared to be an unusual duet partner for Gaga, but her song, Speechless, lent itself to the occasion perfectly. It sounded like one of the classic ballads performed in the past by rock acts like Queen and David Bowie.
Your Song, John’s first-ever hit, was a perfect choice to close their performance. The critics agreed Elton John performing with Lady Gaga was an endorsement of her talents.
Gaga and John worked together extensively over the next year and became close friends. They recorded a duet, Hello Hello, for the soundtrack of the film, Gnomeo and Juliet, in 2011. It was nominated for best song at the Golden Globe Awards, the Critics’ Choice Awards and the Satellite Awards.
When John announced that Gaga was to be godmother to his first-born son, Zachary, he gave a tongue-in-cheek reply to critics who questioned the child’s “unusual parents”, telling them, “Don’t worry… his godmother is Lady Gaga.”
In an interview, Furnish said Gaga’s position in the music industry would help Zachary when he inherited his father’s legacy later in life, as she would guide him.
In 2013, John and Furnish asked Gaga to become their second son Elijah’s godmother too. At the time, John said Gaga was “a great role model”, adding that he “admired everything about her”. Describing her as a “great godmother”, he said despite being in show business, they were human beings at the same time.
He liked the way Gaga was “hands-on” and said she was “the greatest godmama” to his boys, who called her “Gaga-mother”.
In 2013, Gaga and John recreated their piano duet on Lady Gaga and The Muppets’ Holiday Spectacular on Thanksgiving Day. They played John’s 1974 number one hit, Bennie and the Jets, which was specially renamed Gaga and the Jets.
In 2016, Gaga made a surprise appearance at John’s free Sunset Strip concert as a thank you for the city hosting his annual Oscars viewing party to raise funds for his AIDS Foundation. He sang Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me, as Gaga joined him on stage for an impromptu performance.
John has described Gaga as “more than a friend” and “like family to me”. Gaga has described him as her “mentor” and says he has always challenged her to keep her head above water. Gaga says, “He knows when I’m down. He just does.” Describing John as “uniquely special” and an “inspiration”, she says he has been instrumental in her life, showing her how to go all the way in life, while remaining authentic and true to yourself.
His guidance and advice certainly seem to have worked. At the 2021 Grammys, Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande won the award for the best duet with their hit single, Rain On Me.
She received a bouquet of white flowers and a handwritten note from Elton John and his sons, congratulating her on her achievement. Winning a Grammy was the pinnacle of her career to date, but receiving flowers and a handwritten note from Elton John possibly topped that!
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