Reginald Kenneth Dwight, born in a suburb of London in 1947, was already displaying a talent for piano at the age of four. At eleven he was awarded a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music. Instead of pursuing a career as a classical concert pianist, in his early twenties he renamed himself, drawing a first name from the jazz-fusion saxophonist Elton Dean, and a last name from seminal British blues man Long John Baldry. The 1970s were beginning, and the world was ready for something outrageous and over-the-top; Elton John was ready to provide it.
With his sparkling, colorful wardrobe, custom over-sized glasses and platform boots, John fronted a stage show that was dependably larger than life. He was a pioneer of Arena Rock; his costumes and sets delivered spectacle that reached to the farthest rows, while his compositions and the lyrics provided by his early creative partner Bernie Taupin had meaning and depth to support all that flash.
In 1976, he proved himself a social pioneer as well by coming out as bisexual. Later he would identify himself more definitely as a gay man, and he entered a civil union with David Furnish on December 21st, 2005 — the first day such partnerships were legally recognized in Britain.
After winning Grammy and Tony awards for his work with Tim Rice on the Broadway musicals The Lion King and Aida, John has continued to tie his music to live performance; he was instrumental in turning the movie Billy Elliot into a stage show in 2008. He has returned to the recording studio in recent years, demonstrating that “forty years on,” he still has music to make.