The monumental career of singer, songwriter, and performer Sir Elton John has made him one of the top-selling solo artists of all time, with more than 200 million records sold worldwide. Elton has won a wide array of industry awards including Grammys®, Tonys, and an Oscar®, and continues to add to his personal repertoire of 35 gold and 25 platinum albums.
Born Reginald Kenneth Dwight on March 25, 1947 in England, Elton’s career as a prolific songwriter and flamboyant performer netted him 30 different hits on the top 40 charts between 1970 and 1982. His theatrical stage appearances, featuring a succession of elaborate costumes and outlandish spectacles, made him a pop megastar. His hit tunes included “Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road,” “Your Song,” “Bennie and the Jets,” and “Rocket Man.” All were written with his longtime lyricist, Bernie Taupin.
In the early 1990s, Elton embarked on songwriting collaborations with lyricist Tim Rice, resulting in the soundtrack to the Walt Disney Pictures 1994 animated feature The Lion King. At first, though, Elton wasn’t too sure of success: “I sat there with a line of lyrics that began, ‘When I was a young warthog,’” John said in 1995, “and I thought, ‘Has it come to this?’”
His uneasiness proved unfounded, as the resulting work earned three Academy Award® nominations (“Circle of Life,” “Hakuna Matata,” and the winner, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”), and the film’s soundtrack album produced two top-selling, award-winning singles for John: “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” and “Circle of Life.”
It also introduced Elton to a whole new generation of fans—the children who approach him in public and tell him that they love The Lion King. The lad who grew up loving the score to Disney’s The Jungle Book once said, “That’s exactly what I wrote it for. I wanted to write melodies that kids would like.”
In 1997, The Lion King debuted on Broadway, receiving six Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and, in 1998, a Grammy® for Best Musical Show Album. In March 2000, the Tony Award-winning Aida opened on Broadway and John was honored with another Grammy for the Best Musical Show Album.
Subsequent projects included the smash-hit stage production of Billy Elliot, for which Elton composed the music; it was nominated for a record 9 Olivier Awards, winning Best Musical, among others. Elton’s fourth musical, Lestat opened on Broadway on April 25, 2006.
A great humanitarian, Elton’s commitment to the fight against AIDS led to the inception of the Elton John AIDS Foundation. It has raised more than $200 million, making the Elton John AIDS Foundation one of the largest public non-profit organizations in the AIDS arena.
In December of 2004, Elton received the Kennedy Center Honor for his lifetime contributions to American culture and excellence through the performing arts. In 1998, he was knighted by the Queen of England, who honored him with the title Sir Elton John, CBE.