Elton John has etched his name into the annals of music history through his exceptional career marked by collaboration and an unwavering celebration of music’s beauty. Together with Bernie Taupin, his songwriting partner, they’ve achieved the extraordinary feat of selling over 250 million records worldwide. Their partnership, which began serendipitously, embodies the essence of creativity, proving that chance encounters can lead to legendary musical journeys.
In the year 1967, both Bernie Taupin and Elton John responded to a talent call advert placed by Liberty Records, but fate had a different plan in mind. They both faced rejection, leaving Elton disheartened by his inability to craft lyrics. However, destiny had a different path in mind for these two budding musicians. A compassionate receptionist delved into the lyrics submission, handed Elton an envelope, and as he opened it during a dejected underground ride home, he discovered the poetry of Bernie Taupin. This moment would set the stage for a remarkable partnership that would span over five decades, producing 30 albums that have touched the hearts of millions worldwide.
The synergy between Elton John and Bernie Taupin was undeniable and immediate. Elton, a child prodigy on the piano, had received grants for classical training and now had the perfect lyrical counterpart in Taupin. Together, they channeled their creative energies into crafting perfect pop music, with one of their key ingredients being the legendary Leon Russell.
Elton John was awe-struck by Leon Russell’s mesmerizing voice. He vividly recalls, “When I heard that voice, I just went ‘Oh my god.’ Then I met Leon. He was my idol.” Elton’s journey took him to America, where he toured alongside his idol, playing second on the bill. Remarkably, rather than being aloof or envious, Russell was remarkably supportive and encouraging, sharing valuable tips and creative inspiration. Elton was on the cusp of stardom, and his hero’s mentorship played an instrumental role in shaping his future success.
Leon Russell’s remarkable musical talents extended beyond his collaboration with Elton John. He had a knack for crafting toe-tapping grooves, honed through work with luminaries such as The Ronettes, The Crystals, Glen Campbell, Gary Lewis & The Playboys, and Frank Sinatra before embarking on his solo career. Despite his own classic creations, many of Russell’s songs found their way into the hands of others, often overshadowing his own efforts.
As time passed, Leon Russell’s name began to fade into obscurity, a fact that deeply troubled Elton John. He expressed his frustration, saying, “Many years later, I paid him back by making a record called ‘The Union’ and salvaging him from the waste bin of life because everyone had forgotten about him, and I was so angry about it.”
‘The Union,’ their collaborative effort, saw the light of day in 2010 and featured an array of musical luminaries, including Rose Stone, Neil Young, Brian Wilson, T Bone Burnett, Tata Vega, and more. This record served as a renaissance for the legendary Leon Russell, restoring his rightful place in the music industry.
In conclusion, Elton John’s journey, characterized by serendipity, collaboration, and unwavering support, not only shaped his own career but also played a pivotal role in reviving the career of a musical icon, Leon Russell. Their story is a testament to the transformative power of music and the enduring legacy of artists who celebrate creativity.