British Icon of the Week: Sir Elton John, the Rock Icon Who Doesn't Take Himself Too Seriously
Sir Elton John is one of the most legendary musicians ever – who doesn't get a little emotional when they hear "Tiny Dancer," or feel kind of defiant whenever "I'm Still Standing" comes on? He celebrated his 74th birthday this week on March 25, so we're making him our British Icon of the Week with this guide to some of his most endearing qualities.
1. He enjoys teasing his mates.
In this clip from The Graham Norton Show, he aims a playful zinger at his old friend Sir Rod Stewart. Incidentally, the two singers have had quirky, drag-style nicknames for each other since the '70s: Stewart is "Phyllis," while Elton is "Sharon." The late Freddie Mercury joined in too and adopted the nickname "Melina."
2. He tells like it is – but affectionately.
Here's his take on Dame Elizabeth Taylor, from his 2019 memoir Me: "She was incredibly kind and welcoming and she was hilarious — she had a really filthy English sense of humor — although you had to watch your jewelry around her. She was obsessed. If you were wearing something she liked the look of, she’d somehow just charm you into giving it to her; you would walk into her dressing room wearing a Cartier watch and leave without it, never entirely sure how she’d managed to get it off you.”
3. He's a supremely good sport.
In this tongue-in-cheek P.S.A. encouraging the U.K.'s older folks to take up the Covid-19 vaccine, Sir Elton gamely plays a version of himself with no acting skills. Consequently, he ends up getting replaced in the NHS video by "someone bigger" — Sir Michael Caine!
4. He's an in-demand Godfather.
Sir Elton has no fewer than 10 godchildren, including John Lennon and Yoko Ono's son Sean, Elizabeth Hurley's son Damian, and David and Victoria Beckham's sons Brooklyn and Romeo. He chats about the Beckham boys in this clip from The Graham Norton Show.
5. He's definitely not stingy with his money.
When Sir Elton's spending was scrutinized in court in 2000 as part of a hard-fought contract battle, it emerged that he had spent £293,000 ($406,000) on flowers in just 20 months. According to The Independent, when Sir Elton was asked by opposing counsel, "£293,000 on flowers alone, is that possible?," he replied drily: "Yes, I like flowers."
6. And on a more serious note, he gives a lot of money to charity.
In 2016, he was named the U.K.'s most generous celebrity after giving a massive £26.8 million ($36.8 million) to charitable causes.
7. He can send himself up.
Sir Elton almost stole the show in 2017's Kingsman: The Golden Circle, playing a particularly foul-mouthed version of himself who has been kidnapped by Julianne Moore's drug mogul Poppy Adams. The clip below is pretty short because it features none of his many, many cuss words from the movie.
8. He knows how to behave like the superstar he is.
He was born Reginald Kenneth Dwight, but legally changed his name to Elton Hercules John in 1972 – respect.
9. He's not bowing out quietly.
Sir Elton's final tour, "Farewell Yellow Brick Road," began in September 2018 and is scheduled to run right through January 2023. It will eventually comprise 276 shows split into seven different legs: no one can accuse him of lacking stamina.
10. He has the best anecdotes, ever.
In this clip from the BBC documentary Elton John: Uncensored, he tells interviewer Graham Norton about the time he and John Lennon wouldn’t let Andy Warhol into their hotel room. He also shares some tales of his ongoing oneupmanship battle with Sir Rod Stewart.
Happy birthday, Sir Elton – and never change!