The rock icon that Elton John called “pathetic”

One thing you can always bank on when it comes to industry giants: is friction. Keith Richards and Elton John have been in a constant verbal sparring battle for almost thirty years. The continuous public debate between two of the most famous artists in Britain demonstrates the persistent differences in their artistic and personal lives.

Their falling out started in 1988 when Richards gave his thoughts on several contemporary pop songs, such as Elton John’s “I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That,” in an interview. His words were: “Reg, give me a Rubens, and I’ll say something nice. Reg Dwight. Lovely bloke, but posing.”

Since Richards’ remark was not intended as a direct jab at John, the singer most likely didn’t feel compelled to respond. But when the guitarist made another offensive comment a few years later, John was unable to control himself, which deteriorated their enmity. John turned the song “Candle in the Wind” into a remembrance following the death of Princess Diana. Richards, who was well-known for holding anti-monarchist beliefs, freely and candidly stated his actual feelings.

He stated to EW: “Yeah, it did jar a bit, [his] songs for dead blondes. But he was a personal friend, after all. I’d find it difficult to ride on the back of something like that myself, but Reg is showbiz.”

John didn’t like Richards’ words, even though Richards introduced himself as a personal friend. He replied angrily to the New York Daily News, saying:

“I’m glad I’ve given up drugs and alcohol. It would be awful to be like Keith Richards. He’s pathetic, poor thing. It’s like a monkey with arthritis, trying to go on stage and look young.”

He continued, “I have great respect for the Stones, but they would have been better if they had thrown Keith out 15 years ago… I just think he’s an a-hole, and I have for a long time.”

In that discussion, John also went into detail about why he thought Richards’ label of “showbiz” was incredibly hypocritical. He declared:

“Please, if the Rolling Stones aren’t showbiz, then what is? You know, with their inflatable naked women.”

Moreover, anytime the musician was brought up in his memoirs, John didn’t hesitate to voice his unfavorable opinions. Photographs at the 2015 GQ Awards, however, appeared to show the couple having a happy chat. Determining if their hostility is a public front or a true, deep-seated enmity is a challenging task.

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