In Review

Elton John: five things you may not know about the singer

The veteran musician is celebrating his 75th birthday

Pop superstar Elton John has said that he feels “unbelievably lucky” that music is still such a significant part of his life as he celebrates his 75th birthday.

He is marking the milestone by releasing a digitally remastered version of his album Diamonds: The Ultimate Greatest Hits on streaming platforms for the first time.

BBC Two will also be celebrating his illustrious career this Saturday night with two special shows. The first, Elton John at the BBC, will track his career using archive footage from performances, interviews and news clips, while the second is a documentary exploring his childhood, sudden stardom in the US and musical heyday.

Even the most casual music fan knows that John composed the soundtrack to The Lion King and that his 1997 rewrite of Candle in the Wind in honour of the late Princess Diana became the UK’s biggest-selling single of all time.

But here are a few facts you might not know about the legendary singer-songwriter as he celebrates his landmark birthday:

His stage name is a tribute to two music mentors (and a horse)

Elton John is the stage name of the man born Reginald Kenneth Dwight in Pinner, north-west London.

Aged 15, Dwight formed a band called Bluesology which went on to release two singles. Both were unsuccessful, but they caught the attention of blues musician Long John Baldry, who invited him to join his backing band, where he also befriended saxophonist Elton Dean.

When Dwight left the band to try his hand at a solo career, he “immortalised his former colleagues by adopting a fusion of Baldry and Dean’s forenames”, said The Times.

As for the origin of his lesser-known middle name, Hercules – it isn’t a tribute to Greek mythology but to the horse owned by the titular characters on 1960s sitcom Steptoe and Son.

He tore down the musical Iron Curtain

On 21 May 1979, John strutted out on stage at the Great October Hall in Leningrad, now St Petersburg, and made history as the first Western rock star to perform in the USSR.

“We decided to try and play places that we had never sort of played before,” he told reporters at the time. “Usually, most rock ’n’ roll people go to places where they can make money, but I’ve had enough of doing that. I want to see different people all over the world.”

The concert hall had been stocked with Communist Party functionaries to dissuade concertgoers from embracing Western decadence, but before long “Leningrad’s uniformed policemen and other Soviet officials were helpless before the screaming, clapping crowd”, the Associated Press reported.

He is passionate about Watford FC

A football fanatic, John is a lifelong supporter of his childhood local side, Watford. He has previously served stints as the club’s president and chairman, and was later named Honorary Club President for Life. He also has a stand named after him in the club’s Vicarage Road ground.

In 2016, he formed yet another connection with the Hertfordshire side when his son Zachary was signed to Watford’s youth academy at the age of seven. In 2019, Zachary and his younger brother Elijah led Watford players onto the pitch for their FA Cup final against Manchester City.

He has an enormous sunglasses collection

Elton’s wacky sunglasses have been his trademark since the 1970s, so it’s not surprising that he has accrued quite a few over the decades – but the sheer number might surprise you.

The exact size of the collection is a subject of debate, but in 2010 the man himself put the number at 250,000.

“In 2013 he was forced to deny claims he had hired a separate hotel room in which to store his spectacles,” noted the Daily Mail.

He doesn’t own a phone

He might have been a trailblazer on stage, but when it comes to technology the “Rocket Man” is a self-confessed Luddite.

In 2016, he told US chat show host Jimmy Kimmel that he doesn’t use a smartphone. “I just don’t want a phone,” he said.

In Christmas 2018, when asked to share his hopes for the following year, he told the Associated Press: “I hope people can spend less time on their phones.”

The singer added: “I love the benefits that technology has given us, but... nothing beats a lively conversation and huge laughs.”

Social media is a no-go, too. “The office staff run Twitter for me,” he told Kimmel. “I Instagram things but [husband] David does that for me. I am a Luddite.”

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