As I have crowed before Elton John is one of my favorite singers. I love his melodic voice and, yesterday I listened to his 60th birthday concert at Madison Square Gardens where he sang an emotional “Empty Garden” as a tribute to John Lennon, another favorite. I don’t know if it is the name (John) I share with them, but I love these two songwriters, singers, and musicians.
Old timers, such as yours truly, would perhaps recollect that Elton mourned the loss of John Lennon to an assassin’s bullet in his 1982 hit “Empty Garden (Hey, Hey Johnny)”, from his Jump Up! Album. Twenty-five years ago, in August 1982, he had performed a tribute to John Lennon at a sold-out Madison Square Garden show, joined on stage by Yoko Ono and Sean Ono Lennon, Elton’s godchild.
Twenty thousand fans attended the abovementioned Madison Square Garden concert and the audience include Bill Clinton, Pierce Brosnan and other celebrities, too many to name here in this puny blogpost. Of course, celebrity spotting kept me glued to the screen as much as Sir Elton’s antics. This is his 60th performance in Madison Square Gardens, coincidentally, on his 60th birthday. As nice a surprise as it comes.
Sir Elton is an institution and has done many concerts for charity and for his own Elton John AIDS foundation. I do a search. When I see the results I go “Whoa, what’s this?” It brought out the lyrics of hundreds of songs that he has sung and performed. And here I am fidgeting and fidgeting to write just one poem, just one measly poem!
What has made this man reach the top and stay there while others like John Lennon, Jimmy Hendrix, Buddy Holly, and Jim Morrison have come, made their mark and died or gone into perdition? Something called charisma you say? He is still hitting the charts when he is 60 (many of the celebrities present debated his actual age. So it may not be 60, rather, may be a few years more, but who cares as long as he gives the world another “Your Song” or “Circle of Life”).
I sat there mesmerized by the glitzy razzmatazz, the fantastic piano work (his pudgy fingers on the piano keys is a treat to watch), the pyrotechnics, and his showmanship that has him wear atrocious costume and weird eyeglasses. Mercifully, I must say, this time he had worn a dark glass, and not one of those ugly heart shaped ones with his name embossed on it.
Like all great people his beginning was humble. His music loving parents Stanley Dwight and Sheila Harris had christened him Reginald Dwight. He became a weekend pianist at the nearby Northwood Hills pub, playing on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. The crowd was often rough. Reportedly sometimes an unruly patron would dump a pint of beer into Reginald’s piano and the youngster had to work hard to please them. He played everything from Jim Reeves country songs (“He’ll Have to Go”) to Irish folk numbers (“When Irish Eyes Are Smiling”), decades-old ditties (“Beer Barrel Polka”), hits of the day (“King of the Road”), and songs he had written himself.
What is the secret of this chubby man who has performed 500 songs from 32 albums, many of them hits, and is still a prolific music-making machine is anyone’s guess. My wild, wild guess is that he is not human. He is the captain of a spaceship from a planet where people speak songs, not languages.