The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum

Elton John's World of Rock

Thursday, September 8: 12:01 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Sir Elton John

Tonight, Elton John's 2011 World Tour stops in Cleveland, Ohio, at Blossom Music Center, one of more than 100 dates that will take the charismatic, chart-topping musician to North and South America, Europe, Asia and Oceania. It's a suitably international schedule for one of the most successful musical artists of the modern era, one whose popularity ranks with – and longevity surpasses – Elvis Presley among rock and rollers. In 1992, he broke Presley’s record for the most consecutive years of Top 40 hits on Billboard’s singles chart, having been a continual presence in every year since “Your Song” debuted in December 1970.

Born Reginald Kenneth Dwight on March 25, 1947, Elton John and longtime lyricist and partner Bernie Taupin came to identify and shape the mood of the '70s from its inception. During 1971 alone, four new Elton John albums made their appearance on Billboard’s album chart: the western-themed Tumbleweed Connection; the soundtrack to an obscure film, Friends; the live album 11-17-70, recorded on that date at a New York radio station’s studio; and Madman Across the Water, which contained the favorites “Tiny Dancer,” “Levon” and the brooding title track. Honky Chateau, which appeared in 1972, was top-heavy with classic tracks, including “Honky Cat” and “Rocket Man.” The latter was a profound match of words and music that used space travel as a metaphor for spiritual isolation.

In 1973, John launched his own custom label, Rocket Records. That peak year saw the release of the poppy, hit-filled Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only the Piano Player (pictured) featuring “Crocodile Rock” and “Daniel;” and the more thoughtful, album-oriented double-LP Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. John had already racked up five Top Forty hits prior to the release of Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only the Piano Player, but the floodgates opened in the wake of the chart-topping success of that album’s “Crocodile Rock.” In the three-year period from 1973 to 1976, John amassed 15 hit singles, including six that went to #1 (“Crocodile Rock,” “Bennie and the Jets,” “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” “Philadelphia Freedom,” “Island Girl,” “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”) and three that reached #2 (“Daniel,” “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”). Those 15 singles logged a combined 156 weeks from 1973-1976, which is to say that, on average, an Elton John single could be found in the Top Forty every week for three years. However, John's success was not limited to the singles charts.

From 1972 to 1975, he released seven consecutive albums that topped the charts: Honky Chateau (1972, #1 for five weeks), Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only the Piano Player (1973, #1 for two weeks), Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973, #1 for eight weeks), Caribou (1974, #1 for four weeks), Elton John – Greatest Hits (1974, #1 for 10 weeks), Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (1975, #1 for seven weeks) and Rock of the Westies (1975, #1 for three weeks). These seven albums topped the album chart for a combined total of 39 weeks, to wit, an Elton John album was ensconced at #1 every fourth week or so during the mid-Seventies.

In 1997, John recorded his tribute single to Princess Diana, "Candle in the Wind 1997," which was produced by George Martin in a single day. The single sold more than 33 million copies, raising roughly $30 million for the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund and becoming the biggest single in history.

A ballad-oriented singer/songwriter and a flamboyant rock and roll star par excellence, John's also a first-rate musician who has elevated the role of piano in a medium theretofore dominated by guitars. Toting a wardrobe of outrageous costumes and glasses, he remains the consummate live entertainer, providing a splashy, larger-than-life visual spectacle to complement his music. Elton John was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.

Have you ever seen Elton John perform live? If so, where and when? Share your story in the comments section!


WATCH: Elton John talks candidly about "hero," fellow singer-songwriter and 2011 Hall of Fame inductee Leon Russell

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