Me: Elton John

Release Date: 
October 15, 2019
Henry Holt and Co.
Reviewed by: 

“‘I’d allowed myself to get to the stage where I shaved and wiped my arse and paid other people to do everything else for me. I had no idea how to work a washing machine.’”

Reginald Dwight was born in suburban London in 1947 to a young, mismatched, working class couple who fought constantly. He was an only child. Both parents had terrible tempers. They later divorced and married other partners.

The one thing he loved more than anything was music. He studied classical music at the Royal Academy and amassed quite a record collection. Leaving school while still in his teens, he went to work for a sheet music company, while playing piano in pubs and backup bands.

Reg Dwight changed his name to Elton Hercules John after he met Bernie Taupin, his lifelong music partner. Taupin wrote the lyrics, and John wrote the music.

John became engaged to Linda Woodrow when he was 21 but attempted suicide to get out of the engagement. That was the first of many suicide attempts. They parted friends, and he came out as gay.

His had his first album, in 1970 and was invited to play at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, where he met Leon Russell, who asked John to tour with him.

Soon he met John Reid and had his first sexual relationship. They moved in together.

Fame introduced Elton John to everyone who was anyone. Elizabeth Taylor (who stole his watch), The Beatles, Rod Stewart, Quincy Jones, Keith Moon, Elvis Presley—and the list goes on. Once Stevie Wonder sang him “Happy Birthday” 40,000 feet in the air in John’s own plane, The Starship.

But with fame, often come vices such as drugs and alcohol. He quickly got hooked on cocaine.

John learned that Reid was promiscuous but was afraid to leave him because Reid was prone to violence. Once he hit John and it was all over; John moved out, but again attempted suicide with valium.

Meanwhile Elton John’s popularity grew rapidly with countless number one songs and world travel. In the mid-seventies he played to 110,000 people at Dodger Stadium, and to 500,000 in Central Park in 1980.

John Lennon was killed in 1980 and Yoko asked him to finish some of her husband’s songs, but he declined.

In 1984 John married Renate Blauel, his band’s sound engineer. He enjoyed her company though they divorced in 1988. The couple agreed not to discuss their marriage with the public. But he developed bulimia when The Sun published untrue sex scandals about him.

John befriended Ryan White, the heterosexual teenage AIDS advocate who contracted the disease from a tainted blood transfusion. He was there the day White died in 1990. John helped White’s family for years.

Eventually Elton John reached a low point in 1990 when he finally consented to rehab to cope with his many addictions, including drugs, alcohol, and bulimia.

“I’d allowed myself to get to the stage where I shaved and wiped my arse and paid other people to do everything else for me. I had no idea how to work a washing machine.” He had to ask another rehab patient to show him how to wash his clothes.

His mean-spirited father died in 1991, and his friend and Queen superstar, Freddie Mercury, died in November 1991, a year before the discovery of AIDS antiretroviral drugs could have kept him alive. In 1993, John founded the Elton John AIDS Foundation which has since raised $450 million.

In the early nineties, John organized a dinner party where he met young David Furnish, originally from Canada.

Good friend Gianni Versace, was murdered in 1997, and Princess Diana—another dear friend—also died in 1997. John was asked to sing at both funerals. “Sometimes you have to step up to the plate, even if the plate is miles outside your comfort zone.”

At one point, John was broke—due to former manager John Reid’s overspending. John sued him, and Reid retired.

In 2005, John and David Furnish became civil partners and were legally married in 2014, the same year Furnish also went to rehab.

Son Zachary was born in 2010, and second son, Elijah followed in 2013, both born by surrogate. John’s mom had little interest in her grandchildren, “Spending time with her was like inviting an unexploded bomb to lunch or on holiday with you.”

His mom died in 2017, and John had several health issues. He had a pacemaker installed and had surgery for prostate cancer, as well as a burst appendix and an infection he contracted while in Chile. All these challenges made him glad to finally stop and smell the roses.

Everything in Elton John’s roller coaster life has been done in a big way—costumes, stage sets, recordings, shows and celebrity friends. Me by Elton John is a wonderful, truthful, everything-you’ll-ever-want-to-know memoir about a kind-hearted, caring superstar with a delightfully smutty sense of humor.