5 decades of Elton John

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This year, the musician celebrates fifty years since the release of his debut album. Here we remember him with one of his songs per decade

5 decades of Elton John

This is Sir Elton Hercules John's week. On Thursday, May 30, in Great Britain, it was the official premiere of the biopic of one of the most legendary singers and pianists of world music. This promises to be one of the most extravagant biographical films of all, just the name of the film, Rocket Man, suggests that it will be so.

Leer en español: 5 décadas de Elton John

It all started in 1967 when two geniuses met through an advertisement for the musical label Liberty in a newspaper: one was a born lyricist and the other was a pianist and singer from another world. Ray Williams, responsible for such an announcement, joined Bernie Taupin and Elton, who at the time was known by his real name, Reginnald Dwight. Together they would create one of the most successful and enviable pairs in the history of music, which is still intact to this day.

Today we gave ourselves the luxury of taking a song from the Englishman -or better, from the duo John-Taupin- by decade to celebrate half a century of musical career that has made these two characters an important part of the history of music.

1. 'Empty Sky' - Empty Sky (1969)

From 1967 until mid-1968s, the duo Elton-Taupin worked day and night composing music for the American label Liberty and, the following year, on the independent British label DJM. Among their most successful compositions is a song candidate to represent the United Kingdom at Eurovision, entitled 'I can not go on (living without you)'. However, all they composed was simple pop music, because everything was composed in less than an hour.

It was publicist Steve Brown's idea to get the musical couple John-Taupin into DJM's studio from the mid-1968s until the beginning of next year to compose much more complex songs, with more passion; to release their own disc to see how things turn out. On June 6, Empty Sky arrived at the English record stores. The record did not strongly impact the market nor was it one of the best albums of the year according to the critics, but the musical experts saw the enormous potential, especially of Elton John as a pianist.

This is not the typical album by Elton John, he is much more rock and psychedelic than his later works. For the first decade of 'Rocket Man's' musical career, we leave you a song with the same name as the debut album, an eight-minute rock-hard trance that opens the album. Including a song like that in the first LP, much more on the debut album, is a risky move that many think of as a suicide.

Read also: Rocketman and the rise of biopics

2. 'Someone Saved My Life Tonight' - Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (1975)

Between 1970 and 1976, Elton John launched ten albums. That's right, long plays. The couple Taupin-John did not complicate things while composing. In fact, the 1974 Caribou was composed in two weeks during a tour they were giving. The LP reached number 1 in the United Kingdom, making it the third one to reach such feat of the ten discs mentioned. The album that followed Caribou, the Captain Fantastic, is mostly autobiographical and recounts the life of Taupin-John since they started working on composing simple songs for several artists of Liberty and DJM until 1975.

The song that culminates the first half of the disc is this, 'Someone Saved My Life Tonight'. This song is about a tense chapter of John's life, as it is about his attempted suicide in 1968 that almost took the life of one of the most successful musicians in history. In short, Elton John was committed to his girlfriend back then and full of work. The pianist did not really love his girlfriend -for those who do not know, Elton John is a declared homosexual- and he felt overwhelmed by the relationship, so one day he tried to kill himself by sticking his head in the oven. Fortunately, Taupin found him and quickly convinced him that suicide was not the way. The one who convinced him to leave that relationship that had him unhappy was his former long-time bandmate John Baldry, from whom he took the John for his name that is now world-renowned.

3. 'I'm Still Standing' - Too Low for Zero (1983)

The eighties was a difficult decade for Elton John, at least in music. We specify this, because beginning the decade the Watford FC, an English soccer team of which John was a fervent fan since childhood, was enjoying its best times. In 1976, John bought the club and became its president. Since he bought it, Watford, who was a forgotten team that was apparently destined to always remain in the minor leagues of English professional soccer, climbed from the fourth to the first division, consecutively! Its debut in the first-division league was not bad as it finished second, losing against Liverpool, which at that time was the colossus of English soccer.

However, another was the story in terms of music. The eighties brought several revolutions within the music and initially Elton John and Bernie Taupin were in trouble, both artistically and commercially. It was such an impact, that their 1986 Leather Jackets album, a year before selling the Watford, is the only one since the last decade that did not achieve a presence in the top 40 of its native country, and taking into account that this musician has taken there more than thirty productions.

Too Low for Zero was the best record of the decade for the Taupin-John duo, since it reached platinum in several countries. The success of this album can be understood, because the composers realized that they had to adapt to the times. Therefore, the use of the synthesizer and other elements very typical of the New Wave of the eighties were quite recurrent.

4. 'The Last Song' - The One (1992)

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Between 1989 and 1992, Elton John did not record anything. This was tremendous news at the time, because there was not a year since his debut with Empty Skies that Elton John had not released something. As was understandable, people worried and it was not in vain. Elton John, at that time, suffered from strong addictions with drugs, alcohol and an eating disorder that had him on the verge of death. The reception of this album was great not only for his quick recovery, but for containing the first single for the benefit of the new foundation John had created to prevent and cure AIDS.

'The Last Song', in addition to raising a lot of money for the foundation, was dedicated to Freddie Mercury, who died a short time earlier at the hands of the same disease that the foundation aims to prevent. Its dramatic touch flooded millions and millions of homes around the world that housed families still disconsolate with the sudden departure Queen's singer.

5. 'Dark Diamond' - Songs from the West (2001)

For the new millennium, Elton John and Bernie Taupin had already reached the status of living legends. It may be that John's extensive discography was not heard with such impetus in Asian or Latin American countries, but John's image, or rather his extravagant outfits, did go around the world.

With this album, Elton John delivered one of his best works in terms of the nakedness of his soul, because the content and passion from beginning to end, according to several music critics around the world, is phenomenal. On this occasion, with 'Dark Diamond', Elton John joined another of the best and most renowned keyboardists around the world, Stevie Wonder, to create one of the masterpieces, one of many, of both musicians.

In addition to inviting you to see this living-legend pianist's biopic, we invite you to go online and listen to his more than thirty recordings. Thus, you will be able to know in depth one of the most grandiose pairs that humanity has been able to offer.


LatinAmerican Post | Pedro Vergara

Translated from "5 décadas de Elton John"

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