If Sir Elton John‘s career had only spanned the 1970s, he would still be a music legend, an icon of glam and progressive rock. Fortunately, he forged on, segueing into each new era of rock and branching into film and Broadway with comparable success and his signature aplomb and style. As John celebrates his 76th birthday, we’ve undertaken a nearly impossible task — narrowing a huge catalogue of memorable compositions down to the 25 best.
John was born Reginald Kenneth Dwight on March 25, 1947, and showed an affinity for playing the piano at a young age. In 1967, he answered an ad for songwriters and met Bernie Taupin, which led to a long and successful collaboration, with Taupin writing lyrics to which John composed music. It took a few years of struggling, but in 1970 they had their first top ten hit with “Your Song.” In 1972, “Honky Chateau” became his first of seven consecutive number one albums in a three-year period. From glam rock hits like “Bennie and the Jets” to powerful ballads like “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” to funky upbeat tunes like “Crocodile Rock,” John proved himself a diverse and talented artist who would influence the generations who followed. He also established himself as a glam rock fashion icon, wearing platform boots, elaborate costumes and his signature eyeglasses.
Although it looked as though his career was slowing down in the late 1970s and into the next decade, John’s career was rejuvenated in the 1980s with hits like “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues,” as well as the anthem for anyone who’s been down on his luck but risen again, “I’m Still Standing.” He’s had many successful collaborations with other artists, including “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” with Kiki Dee and “That’s What Friends Are For,” with Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight and Stevie Wonder, which won the group a Grammy. Many of his singles have found success multiple-times over, including the 1974 hit “Don’t Let the Sun Come Down on Me,” which topped the charts again in 1991 as a duet with George Michael. Most famously, his 1974 ballad “Candle in the Wind” was re-written in 1997 as a tribute to Princess Diana, and remains the second-highest-selling single of all time.
John’s impact on music and pop culture has expanded beyond albums and his spectacular live performances. In 1994, he collaborated with lyricist Tim Rice to write the songs for Disney’s “The Lion King,” three of which were nominated for Academy Awards for Best Original Song. “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” won John his first of two Oscars — he won again in 2020 for “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from his biopic “Rocketman.” In 1998, John received his first of three Tony nominations for his work with “The Lion King,” and won three years later for his contribution to “Aida,” which was another collaboration with Rice.
John is also well-known for his philanthropic work, most especially with AIDS research efforts. He established the Elton John Aids Foundation in 1992, and the following year, began hosting the high-profile Academy Award Party, which has raised over $200 million for the cause. He and husband David Furnish founded the Elton John Charitable Trust in 2007, which has offered support to more than 100 charitable causes.
Among his many honors and accolades, John was honored with knighthood in 1998 for his services to music and charitable services. He’s one of the best-selling artists of all time, has received the Kennedy Center Honor, a Disney Legend Award and a Laurence Olivier Award, and has been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He is the recipient of five Grammys, including a Legend Award, two Oscars and a Tony, which makes him an Emmy short of EGOT status. Perhaps his recent live special on Disney+ will change that. . .
In celebration of Sir Elton’s 76th birthday, enjoy our ranking of 25 of his most memorable songs (click the photo gallery above). With dozens to choose from, it was a mighty task – did your favorite make the list?
Make your predictions at Gold Derby now. Download our free and easy app for Apple/iPhone devices or Android (Google Play) to compete against legions of other fans plus our experts and editors for best prediction accuracy scores. See our latest prediction champs. Can you top our esteemed leaderboards next? Always remember to keep your predictions updated because they impact our latest racetrack odds, which terrify Hollywood chiefs and stars. Don’t miss the fun. Speak up and share your huffy opinions in our famous forums where 5,000 showbiz leaders lurk every day to track latest awards buzz. Everybody wants to know: What do you think? Who do you predict and why?