Sir Elton John is a talented singer and musician, but can he play guitar?
We weren’t sure of the answer. So we dug in to find out if he can and discovered more about the person along the way.
Today, we’re taking you through Elton John’s childhood into his career and bringing you some little-known facts about the Rocketman.
The Story of Elton John
Elton John was born and raised in Pinner, England, where he first started playing his grandmother’s piano at four years old. At seven, he started taking formal lessons and received a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music after turning 11.
He attended Saturday classes there while still working through a traditional school during the week. Teachers at the academy were impressed with Elton, who could play back complicated classical pieces by ear. According to them, he was a model student though he admits to not trying very hard.
Elton’s family life wasn’t great. His dad was in the Royal Air Force and rarely home. His mother, Sheila, ruled the household strictly, and when Elton turned 14, his parents divorced. Luckily, Sheila’s second husband was loving and supportive toward Elton. In fact, during their years together, Elton wrote the songs that started his career.
His relationship with his father became more strained as he discouraged his son from a music career and encouraged him to go into banking. Years later, the Rocketman would say that his wild costumes were a way to break free from his restricted childhood.
Finding His Passion
His parents were music lovers, though, and his father even played the trumpet in a band. He remembers hearing Elvis, Little Richard, and Jerry Lee Lewis and knowing that’s what he wanted to do. Just months before completing his work at the academy, Elton left to pursue his music career.
At the age of 15, he formed a band with some friends. Bluesology started backing touring bands such as The Isley Brothers and Pattie LaBelle within a couple of years and had regular work as a supporting band at the Marquee Club. Meanwhile, Elton worked for a music publishing company and played some solo gigs.
Elton answered an ad posted by Ray Williams of Liberty Records soon after turning 20 years old. The man handed Elton some lyrics written by Bernie Taupin, who had also answered the ad. Elton wrote some music to fit the words and thus began a lifelong friendship.
Elton and Bernie wrote songs together for other musicians for a couple of years. And, after some encouragement, Elton recorded pieces tunes himself. On his second LP, self-titled Elton John, he struck gold. The hit single, Your Song, reached #7 on the UK charts and #8 in the US. While the album it came out on attained #5 in the UK and #4 in the US.
Since then, Elton John has recorded 31 studio albums, ten soundtracks, and worked on five collaborative LPs. He’s also been in many movies and shows, including Tommy and The Kingsman: The Golden Circle.
In addition, he’s won 5 Grammys and earned awards from elite programs such as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Golden Globes, and the Tonys. Candle in the Wind is the best-selling single of all time. Plus, he’s been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
From the Muse: The autobiographical 2019 film Rocketman is an excellent way to learn more about Elton John, personally and professionally.
What is Elton John’s Real Name?
Elton John was born Reginald Kenneth Dwight. After beginning his work with Bernie Taupin, ‘Reggie’ started going by Elton John. The names came from two of his Bluesology bandmates. In 1972, he legally became Elton Hercules John.
The Queen of England knighted him because of his charity work in 1998. So his full name is now Sir Elton Hercules John.
So, Can Elton John Play Guitar?
Sir Elton can absolutely play the guitar. He’s known to pick one up during a concert now and then, usually with some sort of self-deprecating comment about his guitar talent. Obviously, he’s most comfortable with the piano; but he can certainly play guitar.
We found some additional interesting facts about Elton John.
He played on stage with John Lennon in what would be Lennon’s final public performance.
Elton didn’t actually need glasses when he first started wearing them. He just wanted to look like Buddy Holly.
He’s been sober for over 30 years and is just a ‘regular guy’ when home.
He has two children with his husband, David Furnish, and is a longtime AIDS activist.
Can Elton John Still Sing?
This question seems to come up a lot due to a couple of incidents blown out of proportion by gossip rags.
The first was in 1987 after a particularly grueling series of concerts. He was having pain while singing and eventually had surgery. Reports are unclear as to what exactly caused the pain. Some resources say it was exploratory, and no further procedures were needed. While others quote Elton as stating they removed something cancerous.
The other event was during a New Zealand tour in 2020. He stopped singing in the middle of a performance and explained later that he’d been diagnosed with walking pneumonia. Rather than cancel, he’d tried to make it through the night, but his body had other ideas. He was back at it a few days later.
Not only can Sir Elton still sing, but he’s touring. His Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour started in 2019, went on hiatus due to the global pandemic, and he’s completing the last shows in 2022 (US) and 2023 (the UK and Europe.)
Why is he retiring? As Elton’s website states, “For me, the next exciting phase of my life is about spending more time with my family, being more active with my foundation, my music and other exciting creative projects and continuing my commitment to diversity and economic equality for all.”
Well-deserved, Sir Elton. Well-deserved.
From the Muse: Elton John tickets sell out fast! If you want to see him live, check his upcoming performances now.
Farewell, Sir Elton
Elton John can certainly play guitar, but there’s so much more to him than his musical ability. From the love he gives his friends to his charity work, he’s a man of many talents with a big heart.
We’re heartened by the fact that he’s saying ‘farewell’ and not ‘goodbye.’ Perhaps we’ll still see him singing at an awards show or doing a movie cameo now and then. Either way, we wish him well on this next part of his journey.