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Elton John
For from the very start when he literally stunned millions of fans with his pelvis thrusts on the piano and catchy choruses; it was evident that a music star unlike any other was born. And hes a consummate performer who keeps on giving; his ability to write music that transcends time is perhaps his greatest talent. So it goes without saying that there aren't many artists who are as famous as Elton John or as talented, thus putting him head and shoulders above the rest.

But for the sake of dishing out the facts, here are a few minor reasons why this man is as big we say he is. For one - hes practically had a Top 40 single for the last four decades - every year from 1970 right upto 2004. With eight Grammy Awards under his belt (including the Grammy Legend Award for lifetime achievement), an Oscar for Best Original Song, countless number one singles, and the accomplishment of over 130 million records sold, including the best-selling single in UK chart history - it goes without saying that hes left an indelible mark in music history, and in many hearts around the world. This is his story.

The Early Years:
Born Reginald Kenneth Dwight on the 25th of March, 1947, in Pinner, Middlesex, England, to a middle class family the young Dwight was musically inclined from the very beginning. At the age of four he was playing the piano, and when he was 11, he won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music. Six years later, he left school with the intention of breaking into the music business. In 1961, he joined his first band, Bluesology, and divided his time between playing with the group, giving solo concerts at a local hotel, and running errands for a London publishing house. By 1965, that band was backing touring American soul and R&B musicians like Major Lance, Doris Troy and the Bluebells. In 1966, Bluesology became Long John Baldry's supporting band, and began touring cabarets throughout England. Dwight became frustrated with Baldry's control of the band and began searching for other groups to join. He failed his lead vocalist auditions for both King Crimson and Gentle Giant before responding to an advertisement by Liberty Records.
Though he failed his Liberty audition, he was given a stack of lyrics Bernie Taupin, who had also replied to the ad, had left with the label. Dwight wrote music for Taupin's lyrics and began corresponding with him through mail. By the time the two met six months later, Dwight had changed his name to Elton John, taking his first name from Bluesology saxophonist Elton Dean and his last from John Baldry. John and Taupin were hired by Dick James to become staff songwriters at his fledgling DJM Records in 1968. The pair collaborated at a rapid rate, with Taupin submitting batches of lyrics every few weeks. John would then write music without changing the words, sometimes completing the songs in under a half hour. Over the next two years, the duo wrote songs for pop singers like Roger Cook and Lulu. In the meantime, John recorded cover versions of current hits for budget labels to be sold in supermarkets. By the summer of 1968, he had begun recording singles for release under his own name. Then in 1969, he released his debut album for DJM Records, Empty Sky, which received fair reviews, but no sales. Elton John's quest for recognition came to an end with the release of his self-titled sophomore album. Released in the summer of 1970 the album featured the classic Your Song, which became a hit in the US and UK and fans and critics alike became spellbound by this up-and-coming talent and songwriting team. John followed it quickly in February 1971 with the concept album Tumbleweed Connection, which received heavy airplay on album-oriented radio in the US, helping it climb into the Top 10. John began touring in America in what became legendary shows, sporting outlandish costumes and giving electrifying performances. In 1971, he released the live 11-17-70 and the Friends soundtrack, before releasing Madman Across the Water late in the year.

Rocket Man: (1972-79)
Madman Across the Water was successful, but John achieved stardom with the follow up, 1972's Honky Chateau. Recorded with his touring band it featured the hit singles Rocket Man and Honky Cat, and the album became his first American number one album, spending five weeks at the top of the charts. Sales continued to climb and between 1972 and 1976; and Elton John released 16 consecutive Top 20 hits. The Elton John and Bernie Taupin's hit-making machine was virtually unstoppable. Rocket Man began the streak of 16 Top 20 hits in a row; out of those 16 - including Crocodile Rock, Daniel, Bennie And The Jets, The Bitch Is Back and Philadelphia Freedom - only one, the hit Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting, failed to reach the Top Ten. Honky Chateau also began the streak of seven consecutive number one albums in a row - Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player (1973), Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973), Caribou (1974), Greatest Hits (1974), Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (1975), Rock of the Westies (1975) - which all went platinum.

You can read the rest of our feature on Elton John in the November 2004 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.

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