Elton John’s unique blend of pop and rock styles turned him into one of the 20th century’s biggest music icons. He was musically gifted from a young age, and released his first self-titled American album in 1970, making him a huge international star.
In the 1970s, Elton John was not just big. He was enormous! Unless you were there, it’s hard to appreciate just how big a star Elton John was in the 1970s.
John was born Reginald Kenneth Dwight on March 25, 1947, in Pinner, Middlesex, England. He discovered his passion for music at an early age and taught himself how to play the piano when he was only four years old. Proving to be a great talent, he won a scholarship to a youth program at the Royal Academy of Music in London.
He had a difficult relationship with his father, Stanley Dwight, a member of the Royal Air Force. 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. And much to his father’s dismay, John dropped out of school at 17 to follow his dream. He started playing with a group called Bluesology, and he cobbled together his stage moniker from the names of two members of the group.
In 1967 John answered an ad for a songwriter for Liberty Records. He got the job and soon teamed up with lyricist Bernie Taupin. The duo switched to the DJM label the following year, writing songs for other artists.
John got his first break as a singer with his 1969 album Empty Sky, featuring songs by John and Taupin. While that recording failed to catch on, his 1970 self-titled effort featured John’s first hit, “Your Song.” More hits soon followed, including No. 1 smashes such as “Crocodile Rock,” “Bennie and the Jets” and “Island Girl.” John enjoyed a series of top-selling albums during this time, including Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973) and Rock of the Westies (1975).
One of the top acts of the 1970s, John became equally famous for his live shows. He dressed in fabulous, over-the-top costumes and glasses for his elaborate concerts. In an interview with W, John explained that “I wasn’t a sex symbol like Bowie, Marc Bolan or Freddie Mercury, so I dressed more on the humorous side, because if I was going to be stuck at the piano for two hours, I was going to make people look at me.”