In terms of sales and lasting popularity, Elton John was the biggest pop superstar of the early '70s. Initially marketed as a singer/songwriter, John soon revealed he could craft Beatlesque pop and pound out rockers with equal aplomb. He could dip into soul, disco and country, as well as classic pop balladry and even progressive rock. His versatility, combined with his effortless melodic skills, dynamic charisma and flamboyant stage shows made him the most popular recording artist of the '70s. Unlike many pop stars, John was able to sustain his popularity, charting a Top 40 single every single year from 1970 to 1996.
During that time, he had temporary slumps in creativity and sales, as he fell out of favor with critics, had fights with his lyricist Bernie Taupin, and battled various addictions and public scandals. But through it all, John remained a remarkably popular artist and many of his songs — including "Your Song," "Rocket Man," "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," and "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me" — became contemporary pop standards.
The son of a former Royal Air Force trumpeter, Elton John was born Reginald Kenneth Dwight in 1947. Dwight began playing piano at the age of four, and when he was 11, he won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music. After studying for six years, he left school with the intention of breaking into the music business. In 1961, he joined his first band, Bluesology, and divided his time between playing with the group, giving solo concerts at a local hotel, and running errands for a London publishing house. By 1965, Bluesology were backing touring American soul and R&B musicians like Major Lance, Doris Troy and the Bluebells.
In 1966, Bluesology became Long John Baldry's supporting band, and began touring cabarets throughout England. Dwight became frustrated with Baldry's control of the band and began searching for other groups to join. He failed his lead vocalist auditions both King Crimson and Gentle Giant before responding to an advertisement by Liberty Records. Though he failed his Liberty audition, he was given a stack of lyrics Bernie Taupin, who had also replied to the ad, had left with the label. Dwight wrote music for Taupin's lyrics and began corresponding with him through mail. By the time the two met six months later, Dwight had changed his name to Elton John, taking his first name from Bluesology saxophonist Elton Dean and his last from John Baldry.