Elton John was born Reginald Kenneth Dwight on 25 March 1947 in Pinner, Middlesex, London, the eldest child of Stanley Dwight (1925–1991) and only child of Sheila Eileen (née Harris; 1925–2017). He was raised in a council house in Pinner by his maternal grandparents. His parents married in 1945, when the family moved to a nearby semi-detached house.
He was educated at Pinner Wood Junior School, Reddiford School and Pinner County Grammar School, until he was 17, when he left just before his A-Level examinations to pursue a career in music.
When John began to consider a career in music seriously, his father, who served in the Royal Air Force, tried to steer him toward a more conventional career, such as banking. John has said that his wild stage costumes and performances were his way of letting go after a restrictive childhood.
Both his parents were musically inclined, his father having been a trumpet player with the Bob Millar Band, a semi-professional big band that played at military dances.
The Dwights were keen record buyers, exposing John to the popular singers and musicians of the day. John started playing his grandmother’s piano as a young boy, and within a year his mother heard him picking out Waldteufel’s “The Skater’s Waltz” by ear.
After performing at parties and family gatherings, at age seven he began formal piano lessons. He showed musical aptitude at school, including the ability to compose melodies, and gained some notoriety by playing like Jerry Lee Lewis at school functions.
At age 11, he won a junior scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music. According to one of his instructors, John promptly played back, like a “gramophone record”, a four-page piece by George Frideric Handel after hearing it for the first time
Elton John disclosed that he was a mere 24 hours from death when he made a courageous decision for his family’s sake. The 76-year-old “Rocket Man” singer, who made his first appearance at Glastonbury on Sunday, was given a prostate cancer diagnosis in 2017.
A rare complication after the surgery gave rise to life-threatening fears, leading him to spend eleven tumultuous days in a London hospital. There, he spent his time praying fervently, with his foremost hope being the chance to see his children—Zachary and Elijah—and his family again. This brush with mortality catalyzed a profound reassessment of his priorities.
Sir Elton John, feeling that his recovery was indeed an answer to his prayers, made the profound decision to retire from touring. The longing for quality time with his loved ones, including his husband, David Furnish, had become a priority. His hospital stay brought the realization that slowing down and embracing a quieter lifestyle was essential to enjoying more time with them.
Remarkably, this ordeal also shifted his viewpoint on Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s frequent use of private jets. Sir Elton John found himself defending the couple, acknowledging the necessity for privacy and convenience in specific situations.
The simplicity and beauty of life away from the limelight unveiled themselves during his hospital stay. While music held a central place in his heart, he found that hearing stories about his children’s day-to-day activities, like Cubs or football practice, elicited a profound emotional response that surpassed the deepest chords struck by any melody.
In essence, Sir Elton John’s experience with prostate cancer treatment and the subsequent health scare initiated a period of introspection, leading him to retire from touring and appreciate the simple, joyous moments of family life with renewed gratitude.