Elton John was born Reginald Kenneth Dwight on March 25, 1947, in Pinner, Middlesex, England. He taught himself how to play piano when he was only 4 years old. John soon proved to be a great talent, winning a scholarship to a youth program at the Royal Academy of Music in London. His parents divorced when he was a teenager, and he and his father clashed over his future.
John, captivated by the sounds of early rock and roll, wanted to pursue a career in pop music. In 1990, after years of battling substance abuse issues, John went into rehabilitation.
The newly sober musical star, delighted at his second chance at life, soon founded his own charitable organization to help in the fight against AIDS.
Elton’s live performances began in 1962 when he played weekend pub piano at The Northwood Hills hotel and went on to join his first band, The Corvettes. A year later members of this band reformed as Bluesology.
Between 1965 and 1967, Elton played keyboard with Bluesology as they gigged throughout the UK, often backing visiting American artists. Elton’s stage name, which became his legal name in 1967, was taken from the Bluesology saxophonist Elton Dean, and their lead singer, Long John Baldry.
In 1968, they became staff songwriters for Dick James’ DJM label. From the start Elton and Bernie were prolific songwriters, writing for other artists as well as creating and recording songs for Elton.
On August 25, 1970, he played his debut concert in America, appearing at The Troubadour in Los Angeles, CA, with his band, which included Nigel Olsson on drums and Dee Murray on bass. The gig received ecstatic reviews and Elton became, literally, an overnight sensation.
Elton has won 12 Ivor Novello Awards between 1973 and 2000, been nominated for a Grammy Award 11 times (winning in 1986, 1991, 1994, 1997 and 2000), and received the Grammy Legend Award in 2001.
Three of his albums have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, including his 1970 eponymous album. Elton has 3 Oscar Award nominations (winning in 1995), and a Tony Award (with 4 nominations) for Best Original Score for Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida in 2000.
In his five-decade career John has sold more than 300 million records, making him one of the best-selling music artists in the world. John was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, is an inductee into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, and is a fellow of the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors.
On 1 July 2007, Elton John appeared at the Concert for Diana held at Wembley Stadium in London, in honour of Diana, Princess of Wales, on what would have been her 46th birthday. John opened the concert with “Your Song”, and then closed the concert with his second performance, with “Saturday Night’s alright for fighting”, “Tiny Dancer”, and “Are You Ready for Love”.
In 2013, he was presented with the first Brits Icon award in recognition of his “lasting impact” on UK culture. The award was presented by his close friend Rod Stewart in a special show at the London Palladium.