…My answer to the question I am often asked (with a nod to Paul Simon): “Why do you still like Elton John?” (Or, what they really mean, “Why do you still obsess about Elton John”)? And, frankly, that’s not an easy question for me to answer, since there are so many reasons.
If I had to sum it up into one thought, though, I would say it is because he and his music grew up as I grew up…
In the 1970’s, when I first started listening to EJ, he was young, I was even younger… He was my first (and only) music idol…He was at his peak of popularity back then, which is how I initially found my way to his music…and I was immediately smitten. I can’t tell you if it was the piano, the voice, the British accent, the lyrics…but I listened over and over to his albums, sometimes with headphones, often not (much to the chagrin of the rest of my family). His music helped me get through the difficulty of my teenage years.
The 1980’s was a pretty selfish, out there decade (I know I was pretty selfish back then), and I think that came through in some of his music. The decade started with 21 at 33 (remember Little Jeannie? My college friends called me Little Kimmee because of that song) and ended with Reg Strikes Back, his testament to getting rid of the excesses and finding himself again. By the end of the 80’s, Kim was striking back and finding herself, too.
In the 90’s, I got married and started a family. Funny, Elton collaborated a lot and made several soundtracks, most notably Lion King (that was the first movie my son ever saw in the theatre, and he stood up on his tippy toes throughout the entire movie). Of course, there was the song Blessed, which I sang to my daughter while I was pregnant with her. And Aida, I remember seeing the show with my friend Pilar, and leaving it in tears.
In 2000, I turned 40…and I found that quite empowering. I am who I am, like it or not. And Elton seemed to be saying that in his music (at least to me, anyway). Songs from the West Coast, Peachtree Road, The Captain and the Kid…all very reminiscent of his earlier music – all great albums, IMHO. Orignial Sin is one of his best songs ever, and it hit especially close to my heart.
And now we’re in the 2010s, which began with The Union…a remarkable collaboration with Leon Russell. He says he’s not going to write new “pop” music, and I guess he really hasn’t for at least a decade. His music may not be “pop” (it’s certainly not what the kids are listening to these days), but it’s still pretty darn good. I can’t wait to hear what comes out of life with his new son.
Whew! I guess that’s just my long-winded way of saying that Elton’s and Bernie’s music is still as relevant to me today as it was 40+ (!) years ago. Perhaps Bernie said it best:
And you can’t go back and if you try it fails
Looking up ahead I see a rusty nail
A sign hanging from it saying “Truth for sale”
And that’s what we did
No lies at all just one more tale
About the Captain and the Kid
And truth it was and still is…thank you, Elton and Bernie!