250 million albums sold, more than 50 hits in the Top 40, 60
performances at Madison Square Garden (a world record), five Grammys,
one Oscar, one CBE, and four decades of work totaling nearly 500
songs: Statistics can't begin to convey the phenomenon that is Elton
John. When he was eleven, and still named Reginald Dwight, he heard a
four-page piece by Handel at the Royal Academy of Music and promptly
sat down at the piano and played it like a "gramophone record." In
1970, when he was twenty-three, he recorded his eponymous second album,
which included the worldwide smash Your Song written in twenty minutes. By 1980 he had released nineteen albums featuring songs such as Tiny
Dancer, Levon, Honky Cat, Rocket Man, Daniel, Crocodile Rock,
Philadelphia Freedom, Don't Go Breaking My Heart, Goodbye Yellow Brick
Road, Candle in the Wind, Bennie and the Jets, Saturday Night's Alright
for Fighting, The Bitch Is Back, and Someone Saved My Life Tonight . In the 80s he slowed his output to exactly one album each year with the hits Little Jeannie, Blue Eyes, Empty Garden, I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues, I'm Still Standing, Sad Songs Say So Much, and Sacrifice. In the 90s he reinvented himself yet again and, with Tim Rice, wrote the songs for The Lion King, propelling it to become the highest grossing 2-D animated film of all time and winning an Oscar and a Grammy for Can You Feel the Love Tonight?
During this time the openly gay icon was constantly promoting research and education about aids, lobbying for the Ryan White Act, and getting in the face of people who wanted to close their eyes to the disease. He founded the Elton John Aids Foundation when Bush I was still in the White House. In March 1997, he turned fifty and celebrated with five hundred people at a costume party where he appeared as Louis XIV. Four months later his friend Gianni Versace was murdered and Elton sat in the front row of the memorial service with his longtime partner David Furnish and Princess Diana. Six weeks later, she was dead and, in her honor, he released his revised Candle in the Wind 1997, the fastest and bestselling song of all time with 33 million sold copies worldwide. All royalties, estimated to be 55 million pounds, went to the Diana Memorial Fund, and Elton has kept his promise never to play the song again. Further indicating that he must be a loyal and generous friend: He is godfather to ten children including Sean Lennon and Brooklyn Beckham. His and Furnish's household expenses are $2 million a month and, when needed, he can throw a diva tantrum, but he's never lost his sense of humor. In successfully suing the tabloid The Sun for libel he said, "You can call me a fat, balding, talentless old queen who can't sing — but you can't tell lies about me."
Earlier this month he kicked off another tour with Billy Joel, and he is collaborating with the Alberta Ballet which in May 2010 will premiere a contemporary ballet set to his music. His Red Piano concert at Caesar's Palace opened in 2004 with a planned 75 shows over three years interspersed with his hectic touring schedule; it closes on April 22 after 241 performances.