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The extremes of Elton John’s life and career chronicled in ‘Rocket Man’

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From his humble beginnings as Reg Dwight, the insecure pianist prodigy sideman, to his parallel rule of the charts and box office receipts in the ‘70s, ‘80s and beyond as the 300 million-selling superstar we know as Elton John has flown closer to the sun than most mortals, his lowest ebbs have been similarly extreme.

All of Elton’s successes, scandals, triumphs, tragedies and tantrums are chronicled in “Rocket Man: The Life of Elton John,” (Pegasus Books) from Mark Bego, author of the three-million selling Michael Jackson biography, “Michael!”

A self-proclaimed lifelong Elton John fan, Bego says he’s met personally with the superstar on three occasions, beginning in the 1980s.

“He was in the midst of one of his wildest phases when I first met him backstage at Madison Square Garden,” Bego said during an interview with The Maine Edge. “Backstage, he was very polite and unassuming, and then suddenly he’s onstage and dressed wildly as Tina Turner or the Queen of England. I’m always attracted to creative people, and Elton is one of the most creative of all.”

Bego’s biography of Elton John accounts for each example of creativity we’ve seen and heard from the superstar on 33 studio albums, 57 US Top-40 hits, while also bringing the reader deep into the icon’s personal life, and its periods of deep depression, addiction and suicide attempts - the first occurring in the late 1960s.

“It was definitely a cry for help,” Bego said. “He was engaged to a woman and didn’t know what to do with his life, so he stuck his head in an oven, which later served as partial inspiration for his 1975 hit ‘Someone Saved My Life Tonight.’”

A similar moment of desperation is depicted in the Elton John 2019 music biopic “Rocketman,” starring Taron Egerton.

“That’s when Elton took a handful of pills and jumped into a swimming pool while his mother, stepfather, grandmother, were all present at this pool party, which was another cry for help,” said Bego.

By his own admission, many of the extreme pre-1990 lows of Elton’s life were fueled no doubt in part by his addiction to drugs and alcohol, with cocaine serving as a primary escape, according to multiple passages in Bego’s book.

“Elton got the help that he so desperately needed when he finally admitted, like so many addicted people do, that he had a problem,” Bego said. “Some people don’t get to that point. but Elton will celebrate 30 years of sobriety this year, and the creativity has never stopped.”

As Bego’s research extended to conducting dozens of exclusive interviews with Elton John collaborators and insiders, he says he began to recognize a common theme throughout; the superstar’s indefatigable passion with whatever he chooses to involve himself.

Whether it’s his endless rare art acquisitions or his well-known proclivity for raiding the record racks in music stores all over the world, Bego says, Elton doesn’t do anything halfway.

“When most of us go to a record store, we might buy one or two albums, but Elton will practically buy out the entire store,” he said of the artist’s insatiable appetite for music.

“If it’s a human rights thing, gay rights, standing up and raising money to combat AIDS, calling Madonna a hateful name because he was pissed at her that day (laughing), whatever Elton chooses to do, he does it passionately,” Bego added.

Elton John is currently in the midst of his “Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour,” a more than 300-date global jaunt which began in September of 2018. Announced as his final world tour, the musician will spend the entirety of 2020 on the road, but will he really stop? Bego doesn’t think so.

“I don’t believe this is the end of Elton’s career, but just another junction where he’s out there meeting everybody around the world, and then he’s going to come back to the studio and create new music,” he said. “Once he stops global touring, he’ll have saved a bunch of ideas for a new album.”

Elton’s last album of new material was “Wonderful Crazy Night,” released in 2016. Bego believes the artist has at least one more classic record in him, and he expects it sooner rather than later.

“I really think he’ll give us one of his best albums yet. I loved the record he did in 2010 with Leon Russell called “The Union,” which was more in line with the Elton John that I really love. He’s also working on “The Devil Wears Prada” as a Broadway musical.” A project Elton started in 2017, the musical is expected to open in Chicago in June.

Bego is cited as the #1 bestselling pop biographer by Publisher’s Weekly and is the author of 66 books on artists in rock, pop, country and soul music, as well as figures in film and television. “Rocket Man” is his second book about Elton John.

Bego says he was introduced to Elton John’s music at a time when the name appeared as a mysterious songwriting credit on Three Dog Night’s 1969 album “Suitable for Framing.”

“They covered his early song ‘Lady Samantha,’ which I loved, and the next year, I recognized the name and bought his debut album and loved the introspective songs on that record. I started buying every album as they were released, and it’s safe to say he’s been a big part of the soundtrack of my life, and I know many who feel the same way.”

Bego says he is currently working on a follow-up volume to his 2017 bestseller “Eat Like a Rock Star,” which includes recipes given to Bego by 46 rockers, an idea he says he’s also developing as a TV show.

“I have several books in the works at the moment but that’s the only one I can announce now,” he said, adding, “I’m far from finished.”

Last modified on Tuesday, 04 February 2020 05:50

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