12 Things You Might Not Know About Elton John

LENNART PREISS/AFP/Getty Images
LENNART PREISS/AFP/Getty Images

Few entertainers have enjoyed the accolades and career longevity earned by Elton John: The British singer and songwriter, currently in the middle of a farewell tour, has sold more than 250 million albums in a career that's spanned five decades. John's eclectic life and musical achievements will be the subject of Rocketman, an upcoming biopic starring Taron Egerton. While you wait for that film's release on May 31, check out some facts about John's upbringing, his feud with David Bowie, and how some UK fans can rest their bottoms on a seat named after him.

1. Elton John's birth name wasn't Elton John.

Elton John in September 1974.
Elton John in September 1974.
D. Morrison/Express/Getty Images

He was born Reginald Kenneth Dwight on March 25, 1947, in Pinner, Middlesex, England, to parents Stanley and Sheila Dwight. He was called Reg or Reggie, but once he legally changed his name in 1972, he no longer wanted to be associated with his former name—even by those who had known him when he was younger. "Reg is the unhappy part of my life," he once said, according to a biography by David Buckley. "If my mother can call me Elton, then everybody else can."

2. Elton John taught himself how to play piano.

John was a musical prodigy, reportedly teaching himself how to play the piano. At the age of 3, he played "The Skater's Waltz" after learning it by ear. That innate talent for music earned him a scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music in London at age 11. Eventually, John was more consumed by his passion for composition than his studies, and he opted to drop out at the age of 17 to pursue a career.

3. John took his stage name from two of his bandmates.

In the early 1960s, John formed a soul group called Bluesology. He would eventually take his stage name from the names of two members of that ensemble: saxophonist Elton Dean and singer Long John Baldry. (Baldry was also later the subject of the song "Someone Saved My Life Tonight.") For a middle name, he chose Hercules. The name wasn't a nod to the Roman god—it was the name of a horse on a long-running British sitcom called Steptoe and Son.

4. John released four albums in one year.

Some artists take years to craft albums, agonizing over arrangements, lyrics, and their own performances. Early in his career, John appeared to be more prolific than perfectionist, releasing four albums—Tumbleweed Connection, Friends, the live album 17-11-70, and Madman Across the Water—between October 1970 and November 1971. The latter stands out for including "Tiny Dancer," one of John's most enduring hits.

5. He couldn't stop producing hits.

John's rise to stardom in the 1970s was fueled in part by his outlandish stage presence, which included colorful costumes and utilizing the piano at a time when much of rock and popular music was built around guitars. But John was no mere curiosity. Between 1973 and 1976, he recorded 15 hit singles as part of his longtime collaboration with lyricist Bernie Taupin, nine of which went to No. 1 or 2. ("Don't Go Breaking My Heart," "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," and "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me" among them.) As the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame noted, it was impossible to look at the Top 40 in any given week during that time and not see at least one John track on the list. The same held true for entire albums, with John's records hitting number one an average of once every four weeks during the mid-1970s.

6. John can compose a classic song in minutes.

Elton John and Bernie Taupin attend an event in 2011.
Elton John and Bernie Taupin attend an event in 2011.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

John's relationship with Taupin has always been a curiosity for fans interested in the songwriting process—especially considering that they've been a successful team for more than 50 years. For one, the two never work together in the same room (which is a good system, considering Taupin moved to California in the '70s and never left). Taupin writes lyrics, and then John arranges a composition around them. John could reportedly execute this process in as little as 15 or 20 minutes.

7. He shared the stage with John Lennon for Lennon's final performance.

During a concert at Madison Square Garden on Thanksgiving day in 1974, John convinced ex-Beatle John Lennon to come up on stage. According to John's musical director and guitarist, Davey Johnstone, Lennon agreed to appear after John played piano on Lennon's "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night." If the single hit No. 1, John said, then Lennon would have to agree to the performance. Lennon wound up singing three songs with John at that concert, including "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and "I Saw Her Standing There;" it was his final time performing in public.

8. John had a falling out with David Bowie.

Although they were contemporaries in popular music for much of their respective careers, Elton John and David Bowie spent most of that time at odds. After developing a friendship with Bowie in the 1970s, John said he was offended to read Bowie refer to him as "rock 'n roll's token queen" in a Rolling Stone interview. The remark cooled their personal friendship, but John apparently still considered Bowie a formidable talent: When Bowie passed away in 2016, John honored his memory with a public performance of "Space Oddity."

9. John played in the Soviet Union.

At a time when relations between the U.S. and their allies with the Soviet Union were chilly at best, Elton John became one of the first major foreign rock acts to perform behind the Iron Curtain. John played a total of eight shows in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) and Moscow in May 1979. John was initially put off by the fact that many attendees sat stoically in the audience—several were government officials not prone to displays of emotion—until several of his more devoted fans began occupying the seats up front and cheering for him. John typically ended the shows by playing "Back in the U.S.S.R."

10. He names his pianos after female singers.

Elton John plays his "Million Dollar Piano," Blossom, in 2011.
Elton John plays his "Million Dollar Piano," Blossom, in 2011.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

John's trademark instrument, the piano, often takes center stage in his performances, and he's not shy about showing them off. For a 2011 tour, he utilized a Yamaha that took four years to construct and featured a series of LED screens that could display images and video footage that "reacted" to the rhythm of his playing. It cost $1.3 million. John dubbed it Blossom, after jazz singer Blossom Dearie. He's named most of his pianos after female singers, including instruments named for Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, and Diana Krall.

11. John does weddings.

Booking private events can be lucrative for major acts, and John is no exception. In the past, he's accepted fees in excess of $1 million to be the performer at weddings. In 2010, John performed for radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh's reception. The money earned for these types of events are donated to the Elton John AIDS Foundation, the performer's charity devoted to funding and researching treatment for the disease.

12. He had a set of bleachers named after him.

Pop singer and football club chairman Elton John leads Watford Football Club team out onto the pitch in 1974.
Pop singer and football club chairman Elton John leads Watford Football Club team out onto the pitch in 1974.
Tim Graham/Getty Images

A lifelong soccer fan, John became president and later chairman of the Watford Football Club in his hometown during the height of his success in the 1970s and again sporadically throughout the 1990s. In 2014, the club named a set of bleachers after him, and in 2016, John's 7-year-old son, Zachary, was signed to the club's academy division for junior players. Perhaps one day, young Zachary will compete as his father watches from the Sir Elton John Stand.

7 Things We Know (So Far) About Baby Yoda, the Breakout Star of The Mandalorian

© Lucasfilm
© Lucasfilm

From the moment he appeared onscreen in the closing moments of the premiere episode of the new Disney+ series The Mandalorian on November 12, the creature referred to as Baby Yoda has become an internet sensation not seen since the likes of the IKEA monkey. The Rock has displayed his affection for the cooing green infant on Instagram; a man purportedly got a tattoo of Baby Yoda holding a White Claw seltzer and insists it’s permanent; and a Change.org petition is underway demanding a Baby Yoda emoji.

That Baby Yoda has gripped the imagination of the country is no small feat, as precious little has been revealed about his origins other than that he appears to be a member of the same unnamed species as Jedi master Yoda, which has traditionally been shrouded in secrecy. More will be revealed as The Mandalorian continues its weekly run through December 27. In the meantime, here’s what we know so far about the alarmingly adorable creature canonically known as “The Child.”

1. Baby Yoda is 50 years old, but he still seems a bit behind developmentally.

Owing to the long lifespan of Yoda’s species—Yoda himself lived to be roughly 900 years old before expiring in 1983’s Return of the Jedi, set five years prior to the events of the Disney+ series—it makes sense that the “baby” in the show is the human equivalent of someone about to subscribe to AARP: The Magazine. We learn Baby Yoda’s age in the first episode, where Mando is told he’s being tasked with finding a target that age. It’s a clever bit of misdirection that sets up the climactic reveal that the bounty hunter is after an infant.

And though his habits—tasting space frogs and playing with spaceship knobs—seem developmentally accurate, child experts told Popular Mechanics that such curiosity is more in line with a 1-year-old, not the 5-year-old Baby Yoda might be analogous to in human years. He’s also not terribly verbose, putting him behind what one might expect of a person his relative age.

2. Baby Yoda is male.

After rescuing Baby Yoda from an untimely demise at the hands of bounty hunter IG-11 in the debut episode, the titular Mandalorian takes off with his young bounty to deliver him to his Imperial employer known as the Client (Werner Herzog). In episode 3, the Client receives the baby; his underling, Doctor Pershing, (Omid Abtahi) refers to the character as “him.” A pre-order page for a Mattel plush Baby Yoda also refers to the character as a "he." We have, however, seen a female member of Yoda’s species before. In 1999’s Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace, a green-skinned Yaddle sits wordlessly on the Jedi Council.

3. Baby Yoda’s genetics are of great interest to what’s left of the Empire.

Why was Mando sent to fetch Baby Yoda? From what we could gather in episode three, the Client was desperate to gather knowledge from the creature, with Doctor Pershing told to extract something from his tiny body. That motive has yet to be revealed, but thanks to The Phantom Menace, we know Force-sensitive individuals can carry a large number of Midi-chlorians, or cells that can attenuate themselves to the Force. One fan theory speculates that these cells can be harvested, creating people with greater capabilities to wield Jedi powers.

4. Using the Force really tires Baby Yoda out.

In episode 2, a battle-weary Mando is in real danger of being trampled by a Mudhorn, a savage beast. Channeling his (presumed) Force abilities, Baby Yoda is able to dispatch of the threat, but the effort seems to exhaust him, and he spends most of the rest of the episode sound asleep.

5. Baby Yoda might become a Jedi Master in a hurry.

Despite his infantile status, it seems like it won’t be long, relatively speaking, before Baby Yoda achieves the Zen-like mindset and formidable skills of a Jedi Master. It’s been pointed out that Yoda achieved that rank at the age of 100, at which point he began training Jedis. That would mean Yoda’s species is capable of some pretty rapid development between the ages of 50 and 100.

6. Werner Herzog has a soft spot for Baby Yoda.

Herzog, the famously irascible director of such films as 2005’s documentary Grizzly Man and 1972's Aguirre: The Wrath of God, portrays the man known as the Client, out to capture Baby Yoda. Interacting with the puppet on set was apparently a source of amusement for the part-time actor, who sometimes addressed Baby Yoda as though he were not made of rubber. "One of the weirdest moments I had on set, in my life, was trying to direct Werner with the baby,” series director Deborah Chow told The New York Times. “How did I end up with Werner Herzog and Baby Yoda? That was amazing. Werner had absolutely fallen in love with the puppet. He, at some point, had literally forgotten that it wasn’t a real being and was talking to the child as though it was a real, existing creature.”

Herzog was so emotionally invested in Baby Yoda that he reacted harshly when The Mandalorian creator Jon Favreau and producer and director Dave Filoni spoke of wanting to shoot some scenes without the puppet so they could add him as a computer-generated effect later in case the live-action creature wasn’t convincing. “You are cowards,” Herzog told them. “Leave it.”

7. Baby Yoda bootleg merchandise has become a force.

When Favreau decided to keep Baby Yoda under tight wraps before the premiere of The Mandalorian, it forced Disney to postpone plans for tie-in merchandising, which can often leak plot points from film and television projects in retailer solicitations months in advance. As a result, precious little Baby Yoda merchandise is available, save for some hastily-assembled shirts and mugs on the Disney Store website. That leaves craftspeople on Etsy and other outlets to fabricate bootleg Baby Yoda plush dolls and other items.

The shortage runs parallel to the predicament faced by toy maker Kenner upon the release of the original Star Wars in 1977. Faced with a huge and unexpected holiday demand for action figures, the company was forced to sell consumers an empty box with a voucher for the toys redeemable the following year.

Stranger Things Star David Harbour Claims He Still Doesn't Know if Hopper Is Dead or Alive

Jason Mendez/Getty Images
Jason Mendez/Getty Images

With the fourth season of Stranger Things in the works, fans are holding out hope that Jim Hopper, played by David Harbour, is still alive and will be returning to the series. It turns out that we aren’t the only ones.

ComicBook.com reports that the Black Widow star recently made an appearance at German Comic Con Dortmund and, naturally, was asked if he would be returning to the Netflix series. The 44-year-old actor replied:

“Oh my Lord! I don’t know. Should we call the Duffer brothers? We don’t know yet, we don’t know. They won’t tell me anything, so we’ll have to see. I think you’ll find out at some point, we’ll find out at some point. Let’s hope he’s alive.”

The Hellboy actor then asked the crowd if they wanted Hopper to still be alive. When he was met with an explosion of cheers, he joked, “Guess what? Me too. Because I like working.”

Though many are still in mourning over Hopper’s presumed death at the gate of the Upside Down, Harbour stated that it was integral to the character that he died to release the guilt around his daughter’s death. He explained:

“I think Hopper—from the very beginning I’ve said this—he’s very lovable in a certain way, but also, he’s kind of a rough guy. Certainly in the beginning of Season 1 he’s kind of dark, and he’s drinking, and he’s trying to kill himself, and he hates himself for what happened to his daughter. I feel like, in a sense, that character needed to die. He needed to make some sacrifice to make up for the way he’s been living for the past like 10 years, the resentments that he’s had. So he needed to die.”

Though his death might have been necessary to rid him of his demons, we hope to see Hopper return.

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