A comprehensive biography that traces the evolution of the pop star known as Elton John, examining both the man and the personality.
Reginald Kenneth Dwight was an overweight, insecure child whose ability, at the age of three, to play tunes by ear foreshadowed the musical success he was to have with the stage name Elton John (“Elton” from sax player Elton Dean, and “John” from blues singer and mentor Long John Baldry). In a matter-of-fact sequence, freelance writer Rosenthal examines the many vicissitudes of Elton’s career, including his partnership with lyricist Bernie Taupin, his record-company affiliations, his Academy Award for “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” and his Broadway smash Aida. No new personal gossip is revealed, and the biggest “mystery” turns out to be whether he is gay or bisexual, and the author glosses over Elton’s problems with drugs, alcohol, and bulimia, although she does discuss the reasons behind his once-flamboyant costumes, and his friendships with fellow performers, AIDS sufferer Ryan White, and Princess Diana. Behind-the-scenes stories and tidbits about the songs and recordings are engagingly informative—for example, the song “Daniel” was originally written with an extra stanza, but was struck by Elton in order to keep the song mystical and the public guessing. Through it all is the portrayal of a man who simply enjoys playing music. As he summarizes his career, “I was never David Bowie or Mick Jagger or Axl. I just sat at the piano and put my feet up on the piano and danced on it.” The extensive endnotes and the discography that tracks Elton’s work will be of great use to fans.
Not likely to change anyone’s opinion of Elton John’s music, good or bad, but it will to far to lend a greater appreciation for the performer. (40 b&w photos, not seen)