Sir Elton John has lived a rock and roll life filled with all the excesses one might imagine and has lived to tell the tale, so why not celebrate the acclaimed pianist’s 74th birthday today by taking a look back at his remarkable contributions to popular music.
Throughout his 50+ years in show business, John has written and/or appeared on 734 song recordings, with over 500 of those being his own original compositions alongside his longtime writing partner Bernie Taupin. John has released over 30 studio albums and multiple all-original soundtracks to match his 50 Top 40 hits. In fact, over the course of 31 straight years between 1970 and 2000, Elton had at least one song in the top 100 every year, a feat no artist has even come close to matching.
Sales numbers, however, are not the only reason why John has been elevated to legendary status by music fans. Rather, it’s the quality of songs that he and Taupin have written since the 1960s.
Together, John and Taupin crafted a catalog of material that has become ingrained in the lives of millions. While his outward appearance might be stylistically shocking and at times absurd, John’s message has always been one of acceptance and love. It would take far more time and space than we have here to give a true retrospective of this icon’s body of work, but here are a few of the more memorable melodies and moments.
By the mid-70s, Elton John was a powerhouse within popular music in America, and cemented his reputation as a premiere showman with his concerts at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles in October 1975. Revisit John’s cover of The Who’s “Pinball Wizard” at Dodger Stadium below.
Elton John – “Pinball Wizard” – Dodger Stadium, 1975
[Video: Elton John]
Revisit John’s performance of “Skyline Pigeon” during a show at the Playhouse Theatre in Edinburgh, Scotland on September 17th, 1976.
Elton John – “Skyline Pigeon” – 9/17/76
[Video: Philip Anness]
Bernie Taupin gave Elton one of his more memorable love songs from his early period with this attempt to capture the spirit and beauty of the women of California with “Tiny Dancer”. Relive John’s performance of the fan-favorite ballad during a 1980 performance in Central Park below.
Elton John – “Tiny Dancer” – 9/13/80
Of course, Elton’s solo rendition of “Candle In The Wind” played during the globally-viewed funeral for Diana, Princess of Wales will go down as arguably one of the most emotional moments of his career. Fans will remember that John re-worded some of the song’s lyrics to make for a fitting goodbye to his friend and former member of the British royal family. Revisit his performance during the 1997 funeral below.
Elton John – “Candle In The Wind” – 9/6/97
[Video: Philip Anness]
Elton was initially against releasing “Bennie And The Jets” off 1973’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road as a single, believing it had no chance of catching on. Over 500 million worldwide plays later, he now admits he just may have been wrong. Relive his performance of the lively arena glam-rock anthem at Madison Square Garden in November 2000 below.
Elton John – “Bennie and the Jets” – 11/21/00
[Video: Murciélago SV]
Another fan-favorite, “Crocodile Rock” always seemed to showcase Elton John’s less-serious side while performing. Revisit his 2012 performance of the rock song during his Million Dollar Piano residency at the Colosseum at Ceasars Palace in Las Vegas below.
Elton John – “Crocodile Rock” – Million Dollar Piano
Elton wasn’t above replying to the critics who said he was past his prime. Funnily enough, when he did decide to fire back on the song “I’m Still Standing”, he managed to get himself yet another top ten hit for his efforts, proving his point as effectively as anyone ever has. Revisit his solo rendition of the song as played during the 2019 Cannes Film Festival in promotion of his then-new Rocketman biopic.
Elton John – “I’m Still Standing” – 2019 Cannes Film Festival
[Video: Elton John]
Prior to the start of his ongoing farewell tour, Elton formed a touring partnership with Billy Joel that seems almost too obvious somehow. The two premier piano men of a generation blend themselves perfectly in this duel take on Elton’s sing-a-long classic, “Piano Man”.
Billy Joel, Elton John – “Piano Man” – 3/31/98
[Video: Pablo Argüelles]
Happy Birthday Reginald Kenneth Dwight, though to us you will always be the one and only Elton John.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, Elton was recently forced to reschedule all shows between March 26th and May 2nd. For the latest information regarding his tours, visit his official website.
[Originally published March 25th, 2016]