Elton John

I went to Africa in January and saw for myself the situation there and saw the ignorance and stigma that people are fighting against. And I'm just very proud to be involved in something. -- Elton John

Singer-songwriter, pianist, Elton John is one of rock's greats. A commercial and musical success since the early 1970s.

When Bob Geldof launched the Live 8 concerts to coincide with the G8 Summit at Gleneagles in Scotland he was heavily criticised.

First he was criticised for distracting from the mass protest in Scotland aimed at G8.

Bob Geldof immediately answered that criticisms by calling for a million people people to descend on Edinburgh.

This was immediately seized upon by the mass media as highly irresponsible. Not that the call was new, Bob Geldof was simply echoing the call that went out early in the year for a million people to descend on Edinburgh to shut down Edinburgh to highlight the ills of globalisation and to embarrass Tony Blair before the world's media.

Not that anyone actually dared suggest no protest should take place. No, it was more subtle. We are concerned at public safety, concerned that people will have nowhere to stay.

Other criticisms was that those involved in Live 8 were aging white rock stars, were themselves extremely wealthy and so what did they know or care about world poverty? Even worse, where were the Black Africans musicians?

There was nothing to stop Black Africa organising its own concert featuring the best of Black Africa as part of Live 8. Was Stevie Wonder an aging white rock musician? In fact they later did, both in Johannesburg in South Africa and at the Eden Project in Cornwall.

Yes, there was a predominance of aging white rock musicians. But could that be because they had some talent, had stood the test of time, were actually real musicians?

One of those who the criticisms was aimed at was Elton John.

Elton John had performed at Live Aid, and was now being invited back for Live 8.

I don't have much to say, except that I'm extremely honoured to be around to play this concert, because it means so much more to me now than it did.

Elton John (1947- ), singer-songwriter, pianist, was first performing when I was still at school, so that is going back a very long way. And yet I had recently been talking to a young female police officer when the Live 8 concerts had been announced, and she was telling me how much she had enjoyed an Elton John concert she had recently been to, that she had recently enjoyed a Kylie concert, and how she would love to get tickets for Live 8. Her wish came true, she got two pairs of tickets!

Good music transcends age barriers. It is only mindless pop, pumped out by global corporations, that appeals to an artificially constructed youth culture, here today, gone tomorrow.

Elton John was as well known for his flamboyant life-style, on and off stage. He spent money as fast as he earnt it.

Elton John hit a bad patch in the 1980s, after his song-writing partnership with Bernie Taupin split. He may have still been a commercial success, but not a musical success. 'I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues', was an exception, to much of what was released during this period. A live version of 'Candle in the Wind' was also released. He then went back to his roots with albums like Songs From the West Coast and Peachtree Road.

Recommended albums: Tumbleweed Connection (1971), Madman Across the Water (1971), Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player (1973), Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973), Songs from the West Coast (2001), Peachtree Road (2004).

An absolute must is the DVD, also available on CD, of the live concert Elton John gave in Madison Square Garden One Night Only The Greatest Hits.

'Candle in the Wind', taken from the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album, was first a hit in 1974, reaching number 11 in the British Charts. Originally a song about Marilyn Monroe, it was re-released in 1997 with changed lyrics and became the fastest selling single of all time.

Elton John performed 'Candle in the Wind' at the funeral of his friend Princess Diana, assassinated on the streets of Paris. The performance at Princess Di's funeral was far better than the subsequently released single.

Elton John carries out a lot of work raising awareness and fund raising for AIDS/HIV. His friend Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen, tragically died of AIDS.

Elton John has his own AIDS foundation, the Elton John Aids Foundation, formed in 1992 as a charity to fund programs for HIV/AIDS prevention, for the elimination of prejudice and discrimination against HIV/AIDS-affected individuals, and for providing services to people living with or at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.

Together with lyricist Tim Rice, Elton John co-wrote the soundtrack for the Disney film The Lion King, now also a musical.

Elton John came out as gay in 1976, long before it was fashionable to be gay.

In each of 30 consecutive years, from 1970 through to 1999, Elton John has had at least one single in the Top 40 of Billboard magazine's pop record chart, the Hot 100, an achievement unmatched by any other recording artist.

Elton John appeared at both Live Aid and Live 8.

(c) Keith Parkins 2005 -- June 2005 rev 0