Elton John stands as an iconic figure in the realm of pop music, recently concluding his touring career with a memorable performance at the Glastonbury Festival. Leaving behind a musical legacy brimming with hits, Elton reached the zenith of his success in the 1970s and has remained a steadfast presence in the British rock and pop scene for decades. However, his early inspiration came from the roots of rock ‘n’ roll.
Despite his age and renown, Elton has impressively stayed attuned to contemporary musical trends. In 2022, the “Rocket Man” collaborated with emerging Leeds post-punk stars Yard Act, reinterpreting their track “100% Endurance.” Other recent collaborations include artists like Dua Lipa, Lil Nas X, and Nicki Minaj, showcasing Elton’s ongoing relevance.
While he continues to inspire the next generation, Elton’s own musical journey began with early rock ‘n’ roll icons such as Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis. Despite this, his formative years were immersed in jazz and pop. Reflecting on his musical upbringing in 2021, he noted, “I grew up in the late ’40s and early ’50s, so there was no rock ‘n’ roll. At that time I was listening to Kay Starr, Johnny Ray, Guy Mitchell, Frankie Lane, Nat King Cole, and then, of course, it all changed when I heard ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ by Elvis Presley.”
Elton’s connection with “Heartbreak Hotel” is shared with countless individuals who were awakened by its release in 1956. Elvis played a pivotal role in shaping the next wave of rock ‘n’ roll stars, including Elton John. The transformative impact of Elvis, both musically and socially, left an indelible mark on Elton’s career. In fact, he adopted his trademark glasses as a nod to Buddy Holly while establishing himself as a pub singer in the early 1960s.
For Elton, the influence of rock ‘n’ roll piano maestros like Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis fueled his desire to emulate their artistry. Recalling the impact of these piano virtuosos, he stated, “Then Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis hammering the shit out of the piano, that’s when I decided that I wanted to be like them.”
Despite his modest beginnings as a pianist in a Watford pub, far removed from the rock stardom of Little Richard, Elton evolved into one of the definitive rock pianists. Although he bid farewell to the stage in 2023 with his final show in Stockholm, reports suggest he is actively working on a new album. With a career spanning over half a century, featuring countless hits, cult classics, and iconic concerts, Elton John has undeniably left an enduring mark on the landscape of pop and rock music.
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