Elton John, the End of an Era
What would music be without, Reginald Kenneth Dwight, better known as Elton John, and his songwriting partner, Bernie Taupin. The music catalogue of the 70s would be very different. The 70s were dominated, in part by this magnificent songwriting team. And personally I have no idea where the music soundtrack of my life would be without them. As a young teen, my life was all about music, and Elton John was at the top of my musical library and a huge part of my teens. Since October 1975 when I went to Dodger Stadium and saw him for the first time, I was completely hooked! Since then, I've gone to over a hundred of his shows, on both sides of the pond.
Elton John just finished his last shows in North America with three nights at Dodger Stadium in LA. 47 years after he played there the first time '75. Hes played Dodger Stadium 7 times in his career and more than 100 shows in LA during the last fifty years starting at the Troubadour in 1970.
The last show at Dodger Stadium on 20th of November, included Kiki Dee for the duet, "Dont Go Breaking My Heart" just like she did when I saw the show in '75. Brandi Carlisle, and Dua Lipa also joined him for a song each. At the end of the two+ hours Bernie Taupin came onstage as did Eltons husband David Furnish and their two sons, Elijah and Zachary. He played most of his monster hits throughout the event, and this last show was globally streamed on Disney+.
His band included his long time bandmates, Davey Johnston on guitar, Ray Cooper on percussion and drummer, Nigel Olson, as well as several other players. This entire performance from beginning to end, at Dodger stadium was absolutely stunning. He song selection couldn't have been better and he was perfectly on form in his performance.
He attributes a lot of the happiness in his life to his long time sobriety. And to the loving support he's had from husband David for the past 29 years. His desire to retire is because he wants to be with his family more. When asked what will he miss from touring, he says,"nothing". Elton and band sounded brilliant, and his love and appreciation for the fans shone through the entire performance.
Elton and Bernie first met through a local paper classified ad in 1967 in a suburb just outside London, called Pinner. And what a musical miracle partnership it has been ever since this chance meeting in those classifieds! Their system is that Bernie writes the lyrics and sends them to Elton. They dont write together. They never have. When Elton gets them, he sits down at the piano and the music comes out to marry with Bernies lyrics with stunning perfection. This partnership and song writing system they've created over the last 50+ years, works, as we all know. For the first two years 1967-1969 Elton and Bernie wrote together, they wrote songs for others. Then, Elton John released his debut album Empty Sky in 1969, and a year later formed the Elton John Band. It all started with the release of, Border Song in 1970. and then Aretha Franklin released it and helped Elton John rise to superstardom in the music industry. At that time he then played Doug Westons' Troubadour on Santa Monica Blvd in LA. After the show at the Troubadour, Robert Hilburn wrote a great revue in the LA Times and that brought attention to this young flamboyant British singer. Then he released Your Song and that was the beginning of his explosion into the music scene.
For this young song writing duo from Pinner, Middlesex, once Your Song exploded in the USA they could do no wrong in the music business in the 70s. The American audiences propelled Elton John into super stardom. from this small venue in LA, to stadiums all over the globe. Elton Johns music has remained imbedded into our brains as part of the soundtrack of many peoples' lives around the world. His albums,11.17.70, to Elton John, Madman Across the Water, Dont Shoot Me, Caribou, Honky Chateau, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, Rock of the Westies, Blue Moves, A Single Man and more....and then by 1980 he released 21 at 33...He had 21 albms out at 33 years old....all (or at least most of which) were classic and of top notch brilliant quality. On those albums were such great tunes such as Your Song, (which started it all), and then came so many fantastic tunes, way too many to name, but if you listened to music in the 70s and 80s, you most likely have a lot of Elton John in the list of your personal life soundtrack....classics such as, Tiny Dancer, Bennie and the Jets, Honky Cat, Saturday Nights Alright for Fighting, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Rocket Man, Funeral for a Friend, Captain Fantastic, Candle in the Wind, Dont Let the Sun Go Down on Me, The Bitch is Back, Take Me to the Pilot, Burn Down the Mission, Harmony.... the list is long. Then in 1980, (in my opinion) the quality of his music dropped. It got more commercial, poppier and even dipped into disco for a while there. Elton was also going through problems with addictions and his personal life got a tad shaky, uncertain and difficult.
In 1984 he married a female sound engineer, named Renata...that marriage was pretty much over before it began (technically lasted for four years). The two remained friends and he's never said a disparaging word against her. He tried to be hetrosexual but it simply wasn't who he was. He said he was living a lie. In 1993 he began a relationship with David Furnish. A Canadian film maker and the two finally married when same sex marriage became legal in 2014. Furnish and John have two sons, Zachary and Elijah, both boys by the same surrogate mum.
Elton John was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for services to music and charitable services in 1998. He has the Elton John Aids Foundation who has been raising money for HIV for several decades. I remember when I was living in England he would do these pop up shops and sell stuff from his homes ranging from art to clothes and everything in between. I was fortunate to have gone to two of these temporary pop up shops in central London. I recall they were only open for a few days at a time. I bought a couple pieces of clothing from his closet and the money went to his HIV / AIDS foundation. I also had attended several football matches at his beloved Watford Football Club, which he was the chairman of for several years. With his love for the team and his injection of money, he took the team from the fourth division to the Premiere league in a matter of a few years. Go Hornets!
He has done so many amazing things in his long career including collaborating with so many artists including John Lennon on his Walls and Bridges album to working with Eddie Vedder, Miley Cyrus, Dua Lipa, Lil Nas X, Nicki Minaj, Stevie Wonder, and others. He has 10 Godchildren including Sean Lennon son of John and Yoko, to David and Victoria Beckhams children. Elton John has done many admirable things in his life. From charitable causes of all kinds to one of his biggest achievements of getting clean and sober in 1993. If he didnt do that he would not be living today. And he is very vocal about that fact.
There are many books and films about the details of his life. All fascinating. During my life I have had so many Elton experiences through the years. And now, to think that by the middle of 2023 he will do his final show and call it a day. He says he has heard enough applause and now wants to concentrate on watching Elijah and Zachary grow and spend time with his beloved husband David.
As for me and the end of my Elton John experiences. I am tenetively planning on going to some of his last shows next year in the UK. He is set to play 22 dates in the UK including 9 shows in London. Then on the 18th of June, he'll say goodbye to Glasgow. And a few days later on the 25th he will be headlining Glastonbury Music Festival. It looks as if Glastonbury will be his final performance. If all goes to plan, I figure perhaps his last show or shows may be something I need to attend. I hope to be able to shoot and review them again and document the culmination of this icons' life in music.
In my memories I have safely stored each and every EJ show I've seen. Many I've been very fortunate to have experienced from backstage, and side stage. And numerous times in the 70s and 80s, racing him back to his Benedict Canyon home after his shows just to wave, say hello and watch him go inside. I've taken my children to two intimate shows at Woburn Abbey, I attended 11 consecutive nights at Universal Amphitheater (with just Ray Cooper and Elton in "79 when they played over 100 shows, just the two of them, on that tour). I've experienced several EJ shows at the Hollywood Bowl, The LA Forum, and so many more venues between LA and the UK. I have so many memories from a lifetime of Elton shows. And beleive it or not, I've learned so many life lessons at Elton concerts. One such lesson I've been applying to my life for decades now....I was a teen. Elton was playing The LA Forum. First night, I was given a laminate for backstage access. My friends were too scared to go with me, so I thought about it, and I came to the conclusion...whats the worst thing that can happen if I take the chance and go backstage...well I guess I could be told to go back to my seat...best thing that could happen...I can be backstage with the band and crew. I chose not to wonder and possibly live with regret for the rest of my life on what could've happened, so I went for it! (Of course I did!) It turned out to be three glorious nights of hanging backstage! An amazing experience! And if I hadn't taken the chance I would never have known. And I'd have to live with that regret of not trying and worst...wondering what could have happened ...Needless to say, every situation that has happened since that day at The Forum I have taken the chance rather than live with one minute of regret, wondering what could've happened if I only tried. I'd prefer to try and fail than not try at all and live with the wondering and worse...the painful regret. And right now, you're reading one of the chances I'm taking right now...The Music Soup is one of those very things. You never know how beautiful something can turn out if you don't take that chance in love, business and life. I'm enjoying this venture so much. It feels like I was meant to share stories like this one with you. And if no one reads it, thats ok too...I'm enjoying writing it and sharing my photos. Life can be so much more fun if you take the chance. As long as its legal and doesn't hurt anyone, why would you not? (BY THE WAY...I know you're reading because I've been getting such wonderful heartfelt emails about my blogs, so thank you).
Regarding the last fifty years that Elton John has been working in the music biz...Its mind bending that his professional journey is coming to an end. But as all things in life, good and bad, sometimes they must come to an end. The EJ shows will always remain wonderful memories for me. And I have so many to cherish...and treasured memories they will remain. And my life lesson from my EJ journey...
I will ALWAYS take a chance rather than live life with regret on not knowing how wonderful something can turn out if I didnt take that chance! So... GO FOR IT! Or as Nike says, Just do it!
A big thank you and goodbye to Elton John and Bernie Taupin. They have given the world an epic catalogue of songs to cherish for a lifetime. For those of you who have known me since I was a kid, thanks for putting up with my Elton love for so many years. Now culminating in my passion and profession of photographing music. I'm lucky enough to capture the end of Eltons career through my lens. I am so very grateful for this, and to both Bernie and Elton for a lifetime of music, that will be forever deeply embedded in my brain, and I shall always cherish. Thank you to them both for contributing so much to the soundtrack of my life. 🙏🏼 ❤️🎵 🎹 📷
Most of the photos in this gallery were from his last few shows at Oakland Arena, LA Staples Center, and Dodger Stadium, where it all began for me. Also a picture of the original ticket from 1975 as well as the iconic shot by, Terry O'Neill from Dodger Stadium from that very show, (with me as a kid, in front!)