Elton John: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road
One of the biggest musical legends of all time turns 70 this month. But these days, Elton John is more Captain Fantastic than Madman Across the Water, because as well as rocking the world,
he’s changing it.
Winq’s brand new columnist Matthew Todd is a longtime friend of the singer and wrote a heartfelt profile of the Rocket man for the just-launched Spring issue.
Sir Elton John’s career is astonishing. Having sold more than 250 million records, he is officially the most successful male solo artist on the Billboard Hot 100 (third only to The Beatles and Madonna). He has won an Academy Award, five Grammys, five Brits, a Golden Globe, a Tony, a Disney Legends Award, a Kennedy Center Honors and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Oh, and he wrote the music for two of the best-loved shows of all time: The Lion King and Billy Elliot.
But there’s more to Elton’s story than just music. Since the early Nineties his life has taken on new meaning with a focus on giving back through his Aids Foundation, speaking up about gay rights, and managing new acts such as Ed Sheeran, whom he helped make one of the most successful male solo artists in the world today.
Matthew Todd on Elton’s support:
I have experienced Elton’s kindness myself. He and husband David Furnish have both long been supporters of Winq’s sister magazine Attitude, attending our events and interviewing Peter Tatchell for us a few years ago. When I was taking a sabbatical from my role as Editor of Attitude and struggling to write my book about LGBT mental health, Straight Jacket, Elton would often call me up to offer words of encouragement, which proved to be invaluable.
On the start of his HIV/AIDS activism:
It would take the simple bravery of a teenager from middle America to make him face his demons. In 1985 Elton read about a 13-year-old boy from Indiana called Ryan White who had contracted HIV through a blood transfusion and was being treated like a pariah by his community. Elton struck up a friendship with the Whites, taking them to Disneyland, inviting them backstage and making regular calls and visits. When Ryan died in April 1990, aged just 18, Elton was at his bedside.
On taking the time to make a personal difference:
But it is not simply the financial resources that make Elton’s contribution so important. I’ve seen the incredible, constant lobbying that Elton and EJAF chairman David do; pressing the flesh at events, engaging with influential people on the phone or in person, such as the time they flew to Ukraine solely to make a speech about homophobia and then flew back again, or just last year when they hosted events at Tate Modern and at the American ambassador’s residence to lobby the political community.