By Michael Baadke
Happy Birthday to Sir Elton John, who turns 70 years old on Saturday.
Musician, singer, songwriter, and philanthropist Elton Hercules John was born Reginald Kenneth Dwight near London in Pinner, England, on March 25, 1947. He is now in his 55th year as a professional musician, a career he began at age 15 when he was singing and playing piano in a Northwood London pub.
Today, the popular performer is in the midst of an international tour that will find him traveling with his band to Rio de Janeiro, Las Vegas, Europe, Australia, Dubai, and Russia before the year ends.
After a stint as a studio musician and member of the rhythm-and-blues band Bluesology, Elton teamed up in 1967 with songwriting partner Bernie Taupin (born May 22, 1950). Taupin has written the lyrics for most of Elton’s biggest hits, and Elton composes the music. Empty Sky was Elton’s first studio album in 1969, followed by Elton John the next year, which produced the hit single Your Song.
Elton’s songs displayed a bold stylistic versatility early on, from the tender simplicity of Your Song to the enigmatic Levon (1971) and the confident exuberance of Crocodile Rock (1972) and The Bitch is Back (1974). His dynamic piano playing shapes the signature sound of every new album.
According to his official website, Elton has achieved 38 gold and 31 platinum or multiplatinum albums and has sold more than 250 million records worldwide. He has had 56 Top 40 singles on the U.S. charts, and has crafted soundtracks for film and Broadway musicals, including The Lion King (1998), Aida (2000), and Billy Elliot the Musical (2005).
He received five Grammy Awards from 1986 to 2000, an Academy Award in 1995, a Tony Award in 2000, and the Kennedy Center Honor in 2004. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II four years later.
In 1992, he established the Elton John AIDS Foundation, which has raised more than $385 million in support of efforts to end the AIDS epidemic.
Elton’s acclaimed 2010 album with Leon Russell, The Union, was followed by two more Top-10 studio albums, The Diving Board in 2013, and his most recent, 2016’s Wonderful Crazy Night.
Elton John was honored on a $1 stamp from Grenada issued in 1988 as part of a set commemorating popular music stars (Scott 1678).